You may have already heard of the controversy surrounding video games, loot boxes, and microtransactions. If you haven’t, it’s time to read up on it so that you are aware of the very real dangers surrounding microtransactions and how unchecked spending can very quickly lead you into debt. If you or someone you know is in debt because of video game-related transactions, consider getting help from a Credit Counsellor who may suggest debt consolidation to help you achieve a debt-free life.

The Gist

Microtransactions involve a business model where the company will offer in-game products that can be purchased for real money. Often, these products are a form of in-game currency that can, in turn, be used to purchase other items in the game like loot boxes.

The Reality

Loot boxes contain random in-game items that the player may or may not want. When a player purchases a loot box with in-game currency (that they got with real money), they are gambling for a chance to receive the items they do want.

The Controversy

Gambling addiction (or problem gambling) is a very serious problem that can affect anyone of any age, gender, or ethnic background, which is why it is typically heavily regulated. The problem with these games is that they are not being treated as if they have gambling in them, and thus aren’t as heavily regulated as, for example, online casinos. What’s more, is that many young people play these games and are more likely to be influenced by marketing tactics meant to encourage people to spend money.

The result is a slippery slope of one small purchase after another that can eventually amount to thousands of dollars spent over a surprisingly short amount of time.

Don’t believe it can happen to you? What about one young man who shared with Kotaku his receipts proving that he had spent around $13,500 over three years on games like The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth, Smite, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. He eventually had to seek help with a therapist to curb his spending habits.

There’s also the story of a husband who lost the trust of his wife after ending up with around $16,000 in debt because of a mobile game called Final Fantasy: Brave Exodus. What started as an innocent $20 purchase on this free game quickly turned into thousands of dollars spent over the course of a year. He posted his story to the website Reddit hoping to warn others, and a number of comments came flooding in begging him to seek help and offering advice where they could.

The Verdict

It’s time for everyone to treat microtransactions and loot boxes in video games seriously. Regulations need to be set any time money is used to gamble on the chance of receiving in-game items. There also needs to be more awareness – the more people know about the dangers of microtransactions, the less likely they are to fall for the trap of spending money in the game.