POP MART: Borderline gambling?

What is POP MART and why is it being compared to gambling? Find out all about their irresistible POP MART blind boxes here.

What is POP MART and why is it being compared to gambling? Find out all about their irresistible POP MART blind boxes here.

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You may be familiar with the brand because of its growing presence in Singapore, with its brightly coloured retail shops in malls, unboxing videos shown on TikTok, and coveted kawaii figurines displayed proudly in many houses across the country.

With such innocent and cute collectibles, how can buying them be compared to gambling? Let’s take a closer look.

What is POP MART

From a single store in Beijing in 2010 to over 300 outlets and 2,000 robocops (figurine vending machines) globally in 2022, this company has grown rapidly over the decade selling figurines, dollhouses, and lifestyle goods.

So, why exactly are POP MART collectibles so popular? At the core of the company’s success is the quality of design and craftsmanship that has gone into creating each figure.

Offering a sophisticated, comprehensive trademark operation system to its featured artists, POP MART encourages the development of new IP characters. Among them are Molly, Dimoo, PUCKY and The Monsters — four particularly successful and beloved IPs that have gained immense popularity worldwide. These POP MART characters are truly works of art, with intricate details, vibrant colours, and true-to-life expressions.

Pop Mart

But what pushes the brand to the next level of success is its blind boxes. Individuals can purchase POP MART blind boxes filled with randomised figurines. These blind boxes offer something that traditional collecting does not — an element of surprise and mystery. You never know what you’re going to get when you open one of these boxes, which adds to the thrill, anticipation, and excitement of collecting them.

But is this really just a form of gambling disguised as a game?


The Debate Over Whether Or Not It Is Gambling

There has been some debate over whether or not buying POP MART blind boxes can be considered gambling because it meets most of the criteria of traditional gambling activities such as luck-based outcomes and opportunity for monetary gain.

In fact, the blind box industry is expected to rise by a whopping 75% to US$4.7 billion by 2024, due to blind boxes’ appeal to customers’ gambling psychology and the emotional value they create via an excitement-filled experience.

The craze of this industry was so strong that it subsequently caused political intervention in China.

Shanghai first banned the sales of blind box products to children under eight years old and limited the price of each box to under US$30– a first-of-its-kind regulation at the provincial level. It was also subsequently proposed during an annual meeting of the National People’s Congress that the Chinese authorities ought to increase supervision of the blind box market.

So, can buying POP MART blind boxes be considered gambling?

Yes, buying POP MART blind boxes is gambling

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Buying POP mart blind boxes do resemble gambling when referring to Griffith’s criteria of gambling:

1.Involves money exchange:
Buyers have to spend money to buy the POP MART blind boxes

2. The final product during engagement is determined purely, or at least partially, by chance: Buyers have no way of knowing what’s inside the sealed package. This “treasure hunt” feeling entices customers to part with their money with little information available — relying on chance rather than calculated choice.

3. The final product of such an exchange is unknown and unpredictable: Buyers don’t know what they’re getting until they’ve already paid for it.

How POP MART gets you addicted

It’s easy to get the common designs in POP MART blind boxes. The resale value of them isn’t high either because they’re common.

What everyone is after are the rare figurines. Certain POP MART figurines are harder to find than others, which adds to the frenzy. Collectors and fans will probably want to get a complete set of their favourites, which leads to them buying–and spending– more. With the result often only revealed after purchase, the gamble is either well worth it or a bust.

The blind box industry runs parallel to loot boxes in online games, where players in Singapore have been reported to spend over S$20,000 to get the online items they want.

No, buying POP MART blind boxes is not gambling

However, some may argue that POP MART blind boxes come with a guaranteed figurine, so there isn’t really any kind of risks involved — unlike gambling where you can end up with nothing! Buyers can also trade their figurines to build up their collection if needed, making it more akin to trading cards than anything else. Plus, POP MART promises there will be no repeated figurines in a box set.

However, though POP MART guarantees no repeat within an entire set of 12 blind boxes, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Individuals will have to shell out at least S$100 and above to buy all 12 boxes. Even then, they still have no way of securing rarer collectibles. You could even end up spending more than you bargained for with no rare POP MART collectible in return!

Spend Within Your Means On POP MART Blind Boxes

At the end of the day, buying blind boxes from POP MART is a fine line between collecting and gambling.

Some might agree that it does constitute gambling since there is no way to guarantee a win. Others might argue and say that the mystery and surprise are all part of the collectible fun. No matter where you stand on this issue, though, it’s important to remember to spend within your means and not beyond it to manage your finances well.

Because ultimately, it is you who decides where to draw the line.