Online gaming has become extremely popular over the past number of years so you may already be familiar with the term “loot boxes”.

They’re a staple of many online games like Fortnite and some have equated them to gambling for children. But what exactly are they?

A loot box is described as “an in-game purchase consisting of a virtual container that awards players with items and modifications based on chance”. 

For example, in Candy Crush, players are able to purchase a gumball using in-game currency which is gained either through passing levels or using real money to purchase it.

When you open the gumball, you are rewarded with extra items that will assist you in passing harder levels.

In gaming, loot boxes are considered “microtransactions” which are very small online transactions.

Using Candy Crush as the example again, players can purchase in-game currency for as little as €1. This would be considered a microtransaction and has proven very profitable for gaming companies.

 

What are the risks?

When you purchase a loot box in a game, you don’t know what items are inside. This has led some politicians to say that they can “entice children into gambling”.

Loot boxes are designed to be appealing. In Fortnite, purchasing a loot box could lead to you getting a unique new weapon or skin.

But it can also lead to you racking up real-life costs as you purchase multiple loot boxes looking for unique items.

As a result, your parent or carer may want to set limits on in-game purchases or turn them off entirely. 

Countries such as Australia and China have put restrictions on them while Belgium has banned them entirely.

Ireland doesn’t have any restrictions on them yet.

 

Be open about your purchases

Remember that if you do make in-app purchases without your parent or carer’s permission, tell them immediately.

An open dialogue between you both is the easiest way to ensure that you have independence but are being safe online. 

If you are concerned about your or a friend’s behaviour and a possible link to gambling, ISPCC Childline and the National Parents Council Primary offer free advice and support services.

Problem Gambling Ireland provides support to people affected by problem gambling.

 

Points to Consider

  • A loot box is described as “an in-game purchase consisting of a virtual container that awards players with items and modifications based on chance”.

  • They are considered “microtransactions” which are very small online transactions.

  • They have been designed to be appealing as the purchaser doesn’t know what items are inside.

  • They have been criticised by some politicians for enticing children into gambling.

  • If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour and a possible link to gambling, ISPCC Childline and the National Parents Council Primary offer free advice and support services. Problem Gambling Ireland provides support to people affected by problem gambling.