Loot boxes and skin gambling will earn $50bn (£35bn) annually in global consumer spending by 2022, according to Juniper Research. The earnings are an increase on just under $30bn (£21bn) this year.
The market intelligence and analysis company also called for regulation on skin gambling. "Juniper strongly recommends regulation for skin trading and gambling, in an attempt to both prevent youth participation and remove malicious actors who run sites which steal skins or short-change users." This follows findings from the Gambling Commission that 11% of 11-16 year olds in the UK had engaged in skin gambling.
While Valve has taken measures against on third-party websites who operate casino-style betting for skins, the Steam Community Market allows users to sell in-game items to others for money, with Steam taking a 5 per cent cut of these transactions.
With over six billion items traded on the skins market, Juniper believes that Steam is responsible for the majority of trades. "Steam makes money from these transaction” said Juniper, “hence the reluctance to shut the practice down."
The financial success of loot boxes and skin gambling comes in spite of significant consumer backlash, that has seen a number of AAA developers back away from the practice.
For instance, Monolith Productions, developers of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War recently announced that it would be removing all microtransactions from the game, after critics argued that the loot boxes were gratuitous and undermined the series’ unique Nemesis system.
And EA is only now reinstating microtransactions to Battlefront II in a cosmetic-only format, after pulling them from the game soon after launch after an outcry from players.