It is becoming more and more common to download a free app from the App Store, only to discover that it offers in-game purchases.
While the in-game purchases are not necessarily required to advance in the game, they can make it much easier to pass a level that you’re struggling with or to customize your avatar.
And it is not just apps that are using in-game purchases. For example, Fortnight uses loot boxes as a way for players to receive random rewards that can further enhance their gameplay.
Many people wonder if they should be concerned that in-game purchases could cause gambling problems.
Understanding Play-to-Win Games
So, what exactly are play-to-win games? Basically, these are any games where you have to spend money to advance.
And most of these times, these purchases are advertised as being optional. However, if you choose not to make a purchase, it could take you longer to beat the game or you might not have access to certain special features.
There are two main types of play-to-win transactions in games. The first type is a microtransaction; this could be something such as using real money to purchase in-game money. The second type is known as a loot box. A loot box is typically a random assortment of in-game items that help your gameplay.
Examples of Play-to-Win Games
Chances are, you have already thought of several examples of play-to-win games!
Any game that you download that then offers the chance for “optional in-game purchases” is an example of a play-to-win game. And it does not necessarily need to be an app; Fortnight and FIFA are also examples of play-to-win games.
Mario Kart Tour by Nintendo is an example of a recently released app that is an example of a play-to-win game. Technically you don’t need to make any app purchases to play, but if you choose to make a purchase, you can unlock new characters and new karts faster than you can by playing the game. If you are after a specific character, there is an appeal in this.
Loot Boxes vs Gambling
Some people feel as though there are similarities between loot boxes and gambling. For example, most people gamble without the guarantee of actually winning.
However, because the possibility is there that they might win, they keep playing because it feels like they could be rewarded. Loot boxes are very similar. While there is no guarantee you are going to get the character or item that you want, the possibility is still there.
And some get into the mindset that the more loot boxes they purchase, the more likely they are to get the items that they want. In some ways, players are gambling — but instead of gambling for real money, they are gambling for virtual items.
Addiction to Loot Boxes
According to FHEHealth, it is possible to form a behavioral addiction to loot boxes. Some players develop a compulsive need to make in-game purchases.
This is because making an in-game purchase and being rewarded with something feels good. They then make additional purchases to get that feeling back.
For example, if someone purchases a loot box and gets a rare character, they might want to purchase another box to see if they get another rare character and get excited. However, if the second box does not, they might be disappointed — and then purchase a third to see if they can recreate the excitement from the first box. This need can eventually develop into an addiction.
Getting Help for Addiction
Those that struggle with gambling might eventually realize that they need to get help to overcome their problems. Most people would see nothing wrong with a gambler seeing help for their addiction.
The compulsive need to make in-game purchases is also an addiction — so, if you suspect that you or someone you love has a problem, do not hesitate to reach out to a counselor or therapist.
Working with a professional will help addicts better understand their compulsive need, as well as start identifying coping strategies to help them overcome the addiction. This includes developing new hobbies that do not have the same negative impact as gambling or making in-app purchases.
It is completely possible to enjoy buying a loot box on occasion without becoming addicted. Many people can make an in-game purchase on occasion without feeling compelled to immediately buy another.
However, when the need is compulsive and begins having a negative impact on somebody’s life, professional help should always be sought out.