In video games, a loot box is an in-game purchase consisting of a virtual container that awards players with items and modifications based on chance. Loot boxes are considered to be a type of microtransaction.
For developers, loot boxes help pay off the initial costs of creating a game and funding development of additional content, while offering paid game enhancements to customers. Loot boxes can make it possible to offer free-to-play games and games with higher development costs than what their purchase price is likely to recoup.
Loot boxes and other microtransactions are increasingly used to improve the profitability of games that are free to play or that are paid for as an initial purchase. Publishers and developers state that these types of changes are necessary as games become less profitable due to decreased sales and increased development costs. Players purchase loot boxes with in-game or real-world currency.
Loot boxes are unpopular with many gamers and reviewers as they can be seen as just an additional cash grab. Part of the issue is in the way games unlock content, encouraging what is basically gambling through loot boxes. Although loot boxes may be optional, multiple purchases of them may be required to get the best game experience. Loot boxes are also often blamed for ruining games by offering items that shift the balance of play, such as over-powered abilities, weapons or vehicles.