The Brief: YouTubers including Jake Paul and RiceGum have received backlash for posting promotional videos for Mystery Brand, a lottery-style retail site that some people have called a scam.
Over the past several months, YouTubers including Jake Paul and RiceGum have created sponsored videos raving about a website in which you can buy “mystery boxes” which contain items ranging from cheap trinkets valued under $1 to designer goods and electronics worth tens of thousands of dollars. In these videos, YouTubers showed themselves winning high-value prizes including iPhones and designer shoes.
Although Jake Paul and RiceGum were not the first YouTubers to advertise this service, they were the most popular ones to do so. Likely for this reason, they received the most attention and backlash. Fellow YouTubers including H3H3 and PewDiePie posted reaction videos, in which they expressed serious doubts about the legitimacy of the site and dragged the YouTubers who enthusiastically and misleadingly promoted it. They also argued that Mystery Brand is essentially a form of gambling that YouTubers have been recklessly encouraging their young audiences to try. Keemstar Tweeted that he had been offered $100,000 to do a similar promotion, but that he turned it down, suggesting that these sponsorship deals were too temptingly lucrative for some creators to pass up.
RiceGum issued a sort of apology video, but largely defended his actions on the basis that he is only one of many people to promote this. Jake Paul tweeted, telling kids not to gamble, but has since deleted the tweet. YouTube has not commented on its implicit promotion of the site by continuing to allow these videos to be monetized, and even to allow them to show up as “trending.”
What Is Mystery Brand?
Mystery Brand promotes itself as a website that allows people to purchase loot boxes containing objects with varying values. These boxes, which range in price from a few dollars to over a thousand, can allegedly contain items from brands like BAPE, Off-White, and Supreme, as well as electronic goods, and more. However, it’s much more likely that any given box will contain something of a much lesser value a knick-knack or small accessory.
The website, which is riddled with grammatical errors and slightly nonsensical explanations of how it works allows people to virtually open boxes after purchasing them. They can then choose to either have the item shipped to them or sell it back to the company for a reduced price.
Is It A Scam?
Although Mystery Brand claims to be transparent about their odds, many of their practices are questionable at best. In addition, some Mystery Brand users have reported that shipping took months, that they received knockoff versions of items, or that their packages never came.
In the wake of backlash, Mystery Brand has removed some of their more suspicious items, including a house they claimed was worth $250 million and a Rolls Royce model that doesn’t exist.
Like claw arcade games, Mystery Brand is a chance-based risk that appeals to children and has questionable odds. However, users must spend more than a quarter in order to “play” for a mystery box. Ultimately, buyers are essentially betting on purchases with unfavorable odds. When YouTubers with young audiences advertise mystery boxes, they are encouraging an impressionable demographic to try a potentially addictive low-rewards service.