Loot boxes entice gamers to repeatedly spend money

vzbv publishes the findings of a representative online survey on microtransactions and loot boxes in digital games

  • vzbv survey shows: A majority of gamers have felt pressured to buy additional content, such as loot boxes, on at least one occasion.
  • Three out of four gamers surveyed agree that loot boxes entice them to repeatedly spend money.
  • vzbv warns about gambling-like mechanisms and manipulative practices in digital games.
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Game publishers entice gamers to repeatedly spend money on in-game articles such as loot boxes – which offer randomly selected additional content at a cost. This is the finding of a current survey carried out on behalf of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. – vzbv). Consumers claim that in some cases they felt pressured to purchase additional content to progress in a game. It is important to protect, in particular, children and adolescents against gambling-like mechanisms and manipulative practices.

“In-game purchases are common in digital games. The publishers sometimes use manipulative practices that may influence consumers’ purchasing decisions in impermissible ways,” says Sabrina Wagner, Policy Officer Team Monitoring Digital Markets at vzbv. “Gamers are repeatedly pushed to spend money but are left in the dark as to the true cost or the likelihood of actually benefiting from their purchase. Digital gaming fun thus quickly becomes expensive – especially for young users.”

Pushed to make purchases

More than one third (37 percent) of gamers in Germany who spend money on digital game content do so at least once a month for additional content in digital games – for example, gaming subscriptions or in-game currency. Just over three in ten (31 percent) say that they have been confronted with aggressive and repeated advertising for additional content. 72 percent have even had the impression they could only progress in games by making in-game purchases. 

These ploys by publishers are clearly successful: just over three in ten gamers (31 percent) who make in-game purchases say they have spent more than intended on at least one occasion. The Consumer Associations’ advice centres frequently encounter cases in which children and adolescents spend several thousand euros on in-game purchases.

The problem with loot boxes

Loot boxes are particularly popular among young consumers. Almost one in five (19 percent) 16-to-29-year-olds who have spent money on additional content have bought loot boxes at least once. However, these loot boxes, which offer randomly selected content in exchange for money, employ gambling-like mechanisms and are suspected of cultivating addictive purchasing habits. The results of the vzbv survey show that a large majority of gamers surveyed (75 percent) strongly or partially agree that loot boxes entice gamers to repeatedly spend money.

“Loot boxes entice users to spend money. Inexperienced consumers such as children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to advertising. They are often unaware of the financial repercussions of their purchases,” Sabrina Wagner says. vzbv therefore warns against gambling-like mechanisms, manipulative practices, and unclear probability factors in digital games that are also aimed at children and adolescents.

Note on survey method

Online survey. Statistical population: gamers (PC or console games or gaming apps) aged 16 or above and living in Germany. Sample size: 1,401 gamers, 595 of whom pay for additional content in digital games. Statistical error tolerance: max. ± 3 percentage points in the total sample. Survey period: 15 to 26 November 2022. Institute: eye square GmbH, Berlin.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) analyses events in the digital, energy, and finance markets in order to identify problems and shortcomings at an early stage. To this end, the market monitoring teams assess consumer complaints. vzbv draws on its findings to launch targeted measures to solve problems in the interest of consumers.

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Survey_vzbv_Lootboxes_2022_EN_0

(Loot boxes and other) additional content in digital games

Results of a represantative survey from 2022

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Press and Media Relations

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Sabrina Wagner, Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband

Sabrina Wagner

Policy Officer Team Monitoring Digital Markets

info@vzbv.de +49 30 25800-0