How gaming and gambling are connected?

The modern gaming industry is considered one of the most successful in the current market. Billions of people enjoy nothing more than unwinding from a hard day’s work with their favorite video games. Some enjoy playing, and others would rather watch matches from their computers or smartphones. Gaming is often in the picture regardless of how people like to spend their time. The gaming industry has come a long way from its more humble beginnings. Whereas video games in the past were once relegated and considered as projects solely produced for entertainment, they eventually grew and expanded into million-dollar companies. Companies such as Riot Games, Nintendo, Sony, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Electronic Arts have produced multimillion-dollar franchises with millions of active players worldwide. If you are also a fan of playing and mastering games while getting some prize money, you should check out these non-UK casinos.

Passion has become so massive amongst gamesters to show their mastery over certain games like Call of Duty, League of Legends, Fortnite, and Starcraft that official sponsored e-sports tournaments with large cash prizes are held. This causes the formation of teams that compete with one another to earn cash prizes and show their gaming talents worldwide on streaming sites like Twitch.

However, these beautiful advancements and expansion of the gaming industry have also made some pay attention to how certain features are implemented as part of the gaming experience. To be more precise, characteristics and mechanics resemble gambling practices. Examples are loot boxes and microtransactions in free-to-play games for pay-to-win features and cosmetic skins.

This is happening in small, niche smartphone titles that require microtransaction income to stay afloat and triple-A games with massive high budgets and entire studios dedicated to them. This article explores the ties between gambling features introduced in current gaming.

Smartphones in gaming and microtransactions

Gaming was traditionally used in videogame consoles, PC, and arcade machines. Nowadays, a new contender has entered the arena: The smartphone. It is reported that 68% of internet users play games on their smartphones. This is due to the sheer amount of devices, the wide assortment of cheap and free games, and its overall practicality. It is a device that can be carried around at all times; many play a game while in a line or waiting for their stop on a bus or train ride.

Many of the most popular games on the market accessible to smartphones, consoles, and pc games, like Fortnite, Diablo Immortal, and Candy Crush, are free to play. However, nothing in life is free, and there needs to be a source of revenue for these games to make money to pay developers, artists, investors, marketing workers, server maintenance, etc. That is where microtransactions enter the picture. Even if not outright gambling, it was the first form of monetization in mainstream gaming and led to effects unlike those found in compulsive gambling.  

Free-to-play games may introduce specific mechanics into their core features, such as limiting how much time you can play, extra characters, cosmetic skins for armor and weapons, or different lives. Many popular games use microtransactions to obtain revenue from players willing to pay for these features.

Many players might be compelled to pay small amounts of microtransactions. This is done to buy cosmetic skins to customize their character’s appearance, obtain extra lives to continue playing longer, gain access to new content, or even unlock powerful items that make the gaming experience much more accessible, just as in Assassins Creed Odyssey.

Furthermore, microtransactions can be implemented into a game; for example, gamers with items obtained through microtransactions get a significant advantage over others. This is considered a bad free-to-play design as it goes against the principle of winning through mastery of the game’s mechanics. These types of games are mockingly referred to as pay-to-win. People with self-control issues might spend much more than they can afford. The South Park episode ‘‘Freemium isn’t free’’ examines this concept with accuracy and hilarity.

Loot boxes

This principle of microtransactions was still accepted, although condemned by a sector of the gaming community. Microtransactions would eventually escalate until they reach one of the most significant controversies on gaming monetization: The implementation of loot boxes

Loot boxes are in-game items purchased with real money that provide access to randomly-generated items that unlock cosmetics, characters, and equipment. The key word is randomly-generated because when you buy a loot box, you do not know what items you will get until the box is unlocked. These loot boxes can be found in many games, including small titles, big free-to-play games, and big-budgeted triple-A franchises like Call of Duty, FIFA, and NBA 2K.

The use and implementation of loot boxes have been heavily criticized worldwide as many countries say they incentivize underage gambling. Young children and teenagers are especially vulnerable targets to this practice; they willingly spend their own money or even steal from their parents to purchase more loot boxes to get a specific reward. This feature received backlash from many countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain, leading to removing the loot boxes from games such as Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Shadows of War.

E-sports and wagering

The expansion in popularity of the e-sports scene and customizable options has also caused new forms of gambling based on these features. New online bookmakers have introduced e-sports betting as part of their repertoire, allowing fans to bet on tournaments for games like DOTA 2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, or Fortnite. Also, gamers have developed certain types of gambling unique to them, such as skin gambling.

Skin gambling is a type of gambling in which players bet with their skins (a customizable feature that makes a character change their appearance) over the ultimate result of a game. This gambling practice is enabled and enforced through third-party gambling sites and is used mainly on PC gaming. If a player wins, they can leave with their counterpart’s skin and their own. 

As technology and games develop, new forms of monetization and gambling in gaming will appear. It will be interesting to see how they develop.  

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