YouTubers rarely ever seem to learn, except for maybe PewDiePie. But Jake Paul put eyes on a company called Mystery Brand when he made a video opening various digital boxes and being rewarded with various prizes. It’s essentially a real life version of a loot box. So yes, it’s like playing a game of roulette with real money.
The controversy started with a promotional video from Jake Paul that was published on December 30th, 2018. Surprisingly, Jake does admit that it is a promotional video and that they did partner with Mystery Brand, so at least there was a disclosure. You can check it out below.
The way the site works, you fill up your wallet with actual money and then you open the virtual loot boxes from different categories. The different boxes have different fixed prices, so that every time you open a box you have to spend that price on the box. So for instance, every time you open the shoe box, you have to spend $99 on it.
Opening the mystery box is identical to opening a loot box; the contents are completely random within the category. You can also sell the items back to make back some of what you spent.
There’s also an option to create your own mystery box by adding items to it and setting the percentages for the win rate. However, the prices on the boxes have to be equivalent to the price of the item with the highest percentage.
In the video Jake Paul spent thousands of dollars opening mystery boxes and ended up with several pairs of shoes, an iPhone X, and an iWatch. His total expenditure was $5,000.
Not everyone was as lucky as Jake Paul, though. Some YouTubers have tried emulating Jake’s success, such as Amer Beez, who basically showed that the average person spending hundreds of dollars on the site will likely end up with a lot of useless items you could have likely purchased from Amazon or eBay for a fraction of the price.
According to the BBC, Keemstar claimed he was offered $100,000 to promote the Mystery Brand on his channel, but the company claims that it’s a lie. Even if they did offer $100,000 for promotional purposes, someone like Jake Paul spending upward of $5,000 means he got to pocket $95,000 out of the deal.
The promotion of a real life loot box did not sit well with PewDiePie, however, who criticized YouTubers for promoting the mystery boxes.
According to PewDiePie, he stated that…
“It seems like a bad idea to promote these kind of websites, especially considering what happened with the CSGO Lotto that happened a few years ago, where [YouTubers] TmarTn and ProSyndicate were caught owning the website and basically cheating their way to victory, faking reactions, going ‘Wow, I’m winning so much!’”
PewDiePie also dispenses of the drama and pomp presented by certain YouTubers by showing the less glamorous part of the website’s functionality, where majority of what you’ll be unboxing is useless junk, just like the loot boxes used in every single other video game.
Interestingly enough, all of the negative press from the news media and some YouTubers has actually caused key resellers like G2A to pull out of its sponsorship deal with Mystery Brand, according to Newsweek.
Of course, we know that loot boxes fit the mold for gambling, and there are studies to back this up, which is why they’re being investigated by certain regulators and banned by other regulators for fitting the definition of gambling. And since publishers have refused to get a gambling license or have their games rated as Adults Only, it means that – in some regions – they either need to remove the loot boxes from the games or deal with being fined for violating existing gambling laws.
Obviously, since loot boxes have been on the radar of most regulators, it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that the Mystery Brand boxes are also now on the radar of regulators as well.
The BBC article notes that this isn’t just about what Mystery Brand is paying YouTubers to promote content, it’s also about the U.K. Gambling Commission taking note of the brand once Jake Paul’s video and other YouTube videos began reaching millions of people.
The UKGC told the BBC that it’s assessing the Mystery Brand website and will take “appropriate action”.
There will likely be pro-corporate shills trying to justify how it isn’t gambling, but established gambling laws have been around for more than century in some places, and most of the laws clearly define gambling as placing monetary wagers on a game of chance.
So we’ll see what the U.K. Gambling Commission does with the Mystery Brand and how this will also affect loot boxes, since they operate on an identical model, only you don’t get actual items or anything of value from a loot box.
(Thanks for the news tip spambot)