Loot boxes – a form of in-game purchase within video games (i.e. 'microtransactions') – have received research attention due to their similarities with conventional gambling activities. A consistent positive correlation has been demonstrated between spending on loot boxes and problem gambling symptomatology. In April 2020, the video game regulatory boards across the United States (ESRB) and Europe (PEGI) announced a new warning label would be implemented for games than include loot boxes: 'In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)'. Such warnings may mitigate spending-related harms to consumers if they effectively inform consumers’ spending decisions. Here, the authors summarize findings from three preregistered studies showing that (1) consumers perceive that engaging with loot boxes has a potential for harm greater than non-randomized microtransactions, but lower than most gambling activities, (2) the perception of harm inferred by consumers from existing warning labels does not align closely to the potential harms perceived to be associated with loot box engagement, and, perhaps most importantly, (3) consumers do not appear to understand the ESRB/PEGI loot box warning. Thus, current warnings may fail to adequately inform consumer spending decisions.
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