Are We Turning a Blind Eye to the Impact of Gamblification in eSports?

In my previous blog post, I spoke about how the world of eSports has grown, and continues to grow, to rival other sports. In this blog, I’m keen to explore the gamification and gamblification of eSports, and how this relationship between media and sport has become a strategy for monetisation.

Across eSports, many games have taken on the process of gamblification, a process that looks to combine gaming and gambling, to increase their monetisation strategies and therefore increase their revenue streams. However, in order for these eSport games to maximise the monetisation of their game, the vital factor is consumer engagement, and to make sure that the consumer continues to spend time on the platform. This is done by creating content that attracts the consumer to continue playing, with content like the battle pass, skins, and loot boxes formed to keep consumers interested. Skins and loot boxes contain content that the consumer knows they can win, but ultimately it is a gambling process for the consumer to get lucky and try to get the items. Macey and Hamari’s study (2019) found that from their sample, 51% of the sample admitted to gambling, but this number rises to 67% if loot boxes are considered to be gambling. Attached below is a report from ABC News (YouTube, 2020) regarding the hidden dangers that gamers are facing when opening loot boxes.

Further research from Macey and Hamari (2019) found that as online spectatorship of eSports has grown, the engagement in gambling activity and the range of channels that gambling services are accessed have also increased. Additionally, eSports gamblification has led to future problematic gambling behaviour, representing the dark side that eSports has presented to a seemingly innocent audience who are just looking to engage with a game they enjoy playing. These strategies of monetisation have shown that the social gaming, where consumers are trading real money for virtual items, have increased with a partial reason behind this increase being blamed on the advancements in technology, as consumers now have the ability to gamble anytime, anywhere (Brock and Johnson, 2021).

Johnson and Woodcock (2019) found that the growth of eSports has allowed ‘streamers’ to make playing video games a full-time occupation, with Twitch being the main platform for streaming. Furthermore, streamers are given 7 different ways in which they can monetise their content, with subscriptions and donations a key strategy for monetisation. Following similar ideas from skins and loot boxes, Twitch allows consumers of a streamer to subscribe and donate with the consumer then receiving access to virtual items that only they can use, giving them special access to the streamer through the game chat. Twitch also provides the streamers with different monetisation strategies that involve the process of gamblification with unpredictable rewards, and competition targets that attract streamers to pay for the virtual items to improve their chances of winning the competition.

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