Michael Pachter, games analyst at Wedbush Securities, went on record as saying that the current loot box epidemic in video gaming stems from the relative intelligence of the average consumer. Pachter has been a games analyst for over two decades, and is well-known for his insightful predictions regarding the fortunes of major industry leaders like Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Activision Blizzard.
The controversy surrounding loot box purchasing is nothing new to video game enthusiasts, although the discussion surrounding it has become intensified as of late. For those who don't know, loot boxes are randomized purchases made with real money that offer benefits to players. Those benefits can be character skins and other cosmetic upgrades when loot boxes are at their most harmless, but better weapons and other in-game benefits when they're at their worst. It's a practice that has divided the games community and caused schisms between players and developers.
According to an interview with VentureBeat, Pachter doesn't believe that loot boxes could exist without there being a ready-made consumer base willing to drop money on them. The multi-billion dollar loot box industry will stick around because people really want things that are perceived to be hard to get, says Pachter:
"Why are there loot boxes? Because consumers are stupid and they'll spend thousands of dollars trying to get that hard-to-get-thing. If you put it up for sale for $500 they won't buy it."
Pachter expanded on this idea later, noting that he believed the legislation targeting loot boxes would struggle to pass in the United States especially:
"Their [Hawaiian legislators] solution was, loot boxes are gambling. Gambling is illegal under Hawaii law. Therefore you can't buy a loot box until you're 21. Does that mean you can gamble when you're 21 in Hawaii as well? There's no chance that law is upheld...they're idiots. I don't think any of that [anti-loot box legislation] happens."
That's certainly a molten hot take on the loot box situation, but Pachter has long been an outspoken member of the video game community. There's certainly some truth to it as well - companies wouldn't be so quick to add loot boxes to their in-game purchasing models if the practice hadn't been so successful for nearly everyone else who has, and that success is tied directly to people being willing to spend the money on a chance at a rare item.
While laws surrounding the nature of loot boxes and gambling are still being debated in most places, some developers and publishers have begun to rally back against the practice. Battlefield V won't have loot boxes, for instance, although the title will feature a premium in-game currency that unlocks only cosmetic options. Other countries, like South Korea, have actually begun fining video game developers for loot box practices.
It seems bold to boil down the existence of loot boxes to an argument as rote as "consumers are dumb," but Pachter is known for his hyperbole and the truth is likely somewhere in between his stance and reality. If nothing else, though, Pachter has a point in that, if gamers started voting with their wallet and avoiding loot box purchases, the practice would disappear fairly quickly.