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The Geographies of Gambling style systems in Digital Games

Authors: James Ash*, Newcastle University
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: digital, gambling, videogames, interfaces
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The digital games industry (broadly encompassing mobile, PC and console games) is increasingly adopting gambling style systems in their games in order to increase revenue. These gambling style systems take many forms, but primarily work to encourage players to unlock digital content in games that can only be accessed through systems of chance, which are purchased with real currency. For instance, digital ‘loot boxes’, ‘card packs’ and ‘capsules’ can be purchased in many games for a set fee and contain random rewards such as weapons, outfits and costumes or new skills for the player to use in game. There is a clear financial incentive for game publishers to create systems that utilise such mechanisms. For instance, Activision, the publisher of the Call of Duty, Destiny and Overwatch games made over $4 billion from such systems in 2017 alone (Makuch, 2018). Drawing upon fieldwork from an ESRC funded project on this topic, the paper reflects on the economic, cultural and social significance of these systems and offers an introduction to the digital geographies of their design and use.

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