YouTube stars under fire for endorsing questionable loot boxes

4 Jan 2019288 Views

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YouTube webpage. Image: manae/Depositphotos

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YouTube stars such as Jake Paul and Brian ‘RiceGum’ Le are facing backlash for promoting loot box-style gambling on their channels.

Loot box gambling is more well known in the world of video games at present, with many players and concerned experts criticising digital loot boxes within games and their potentially harmful effects on young players.

Now, a dubious new company dubbed Mystery Brand has popped up in popular YouTube channels, claiming to be a real-life loot box gambling offering.

Jake Paul and Brian Le criticised

YouTubers such as Jake Paul (brother of Logan Paul) and Brian ‘RiceGum’ Le have uploaded sponsored videos promoting Mystery Brand to their channels. The videos show Paul and Le choosing a variety of mystery boxes seeking out prizes. According to Mystery Brand, prizes range from Apple AirPods to designer clothes, fidget spinners, cars and even houses. Players are allowed to spend between $12.99 and $100 on boxes containing mystery prizes.

Following the addition of the Mystery Brand videos to their feeds, both Le and Paul faced criticism from other YouTubers, including PewDiePie, who described the promotion of the website as “a bad idea in general”. In response, Le uploaded a brief apology video about his sponsorship, calling for viewers to do additional research and offering Amazon gift card codes as an apology. He also included closed captions to the video, warning it was a ‘scam’, but no message is clearly available in the video description.

According to SocialBlade, Le has close to 11m subscribers on YouTube, while Jake Paul’s subscriber count stands at nearly 18m. Many of these subscribers and fans are young children.

Unhappy fans voice disappointment

Some people had already tried out the Mystery Brand site prior to the backlash, with many saying they received fake designer goods or unbranded items in lieu of brand-name prizes. Fake tracking numbers and instances where prizes were not received at all were also reported by angry users.

Motherboard reported that the website itself is not exactly trustworthy, with FAQ sections and terms and conditions poorly translated into English. Another website linked to Mystery Brand, G2A Pay, is a part of G2A.com, a Polish site that trades in grey-market video games, and has run into trouble with game publishers in the past.

Another YouTuber, Keemstar, said that he was offered $100,000 to promote the site, but turned it down. Paul’s video clearly notes that he is partnering with MysteryBrand, including relevant hashtags, while Le states he is partnering with the company in the video itself.

One fan commented: “I don’t like these mystery boxes being promoted by influencers, especially ones that have such a young impressionable audience. This is gambling and shouldn’t be promoted to kids. Sorry.”

YouTube webpage. Image: manae/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com