BBC Money Box Live: Video Game Loot Boxes and Addiction
On BBC Radio 4 Money Box Live today I spoke about the jaw-dropping rise of the video game industry – and the human and financial impact on those who play.
The numbers behind video gaming may come as a surprise to many: with a revenue of around $150 billion worldwide in 2019, video gaming dwarfs Hollywood ($43 billion) and the music industry ($19 billion) combined – as it has for the last decade.
Yet many of the industry’s leading video games are billed as “free”. 2019’s biggest title, Fortnite, earned publisher Epic Games $1.8 billion despite not charging to download or play.
How? Welcome to a colourful world of in-game purchases where virtual coins, currencies, power-ups and “loot boxes” make the digital worlds go round.
Altogether less welcome are the stories of addictive behaviour, debt and theft we heard from Money Box Live listeners today.
I’m not anti-video games – far from it, I play Fortnite on my iPad, was (once) a whizz on Pro Evo and enjoy fewer things more than a round of Mario Kart with my kids.
But what concerns me is an unregulated gaming industry that makes hundreds of billions of pounds yet frequently shirks its responsibilities around duty of care, refuses to acknowledge its game mechanics – yes, loot boxes, among others – are gambling in all but name, and misses opportunities to put controls in place to protect younger and vulnerable gamers.
Keen to make sure your family enjoys video games safely responsibly? Here are two excellent resources: