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What is a Mystery Box? The answer depends on who you’re asking.

For some, Mystery Boxes are a chance to gain the hottest new releases in tech, fashion, entertainment and a whole host of other categories. For others, it’s about the spectacle, the excitement that comes with unboxing, an experience often shared online for others to experience right alongside you. Some people are hardcore enthusiasts, with an encyclopedic knowledge of all kinds of Mystery Boxes and the type of content you can get in each one, both physical goods and virtual. And there are some who question the technology and motivation behind Mystery Boxes, including darkly niche types and alleged ties to controversial industries.

Whether you’re new to the concept of Mystery Boxes or ready to get started with your next unboxing, there’s always more to discover about this rapidly changing field. To understand where we’re going, it’s helpful to look back into the past, and this article is designed to tell you all you need to know about the history and future of Mystery Boxes.

1. Back to Basics: What is a Mystery Box?

Put simply, a Mystery Box is a collection of items, or sometimes only one or two items, all of which are unknown until the box itself is opened. The contents of a Mystery Box can be narrowed down by category, e.g. tech, fashion or gaming, and from there can be narrowed down further by subcategory, e.g. Fashion > Brand > Nike, Diesel or Gucci. Most Mystery Box outlets allow people some degree of control over what they have a chance of receiving, but the exact contents will always be a mystery until the actual unboxing.

Mystery Boxes have roots in gamer culture, and there are parallels between Mystery Boxes containing physical goods, and Loot Boxes, a kind of in-game Mystery Box containing virtual goods such as skins and other visual customisation options. Loot Crate, a popular Mystery Box outlet with polarised views on its services, was one of the first companies to capitalise on the interests of the gaming community in this way, offering Mystery Boxes with various game-related content, from modern, retro and theme-based selections, to content related to specific franchises such as Mass Effect and Fallout, all with the intention of creating a ‘comic-con in a box.’

This is part of the appeal of any Mystery Box from any outlet. A key characteristic is their ability to bring together similar-minded people and allow them to discover and enjoy a broad range of content together, in a way that traditional outlets can’t provide. Unboxing videos by prominent and emerging influencers have exploded in popularity on platforms like YouTube, where people can exchange thoughts and impressions in an instant, generating buzz and inspiration for their own unboxings. Mystery Boxes are a way of getting involved that normal shopping can’t match, heightened by the unknown factor: you never know exactly what you’re going to get, exactly what you’ll want to keep, show off or trade.

More recently, sites like Hybe are spearheading changes in the way Mystery Boxes work, even including the unboxing. In the past Mystery Boxes would be ordered and delivered in the same way as anything else, and unboxed physically when they’ve been received. Today, it’s possible not only to ‘virtually’ unbox, but to trade back unwanted items for credit and to request delivery only when you’re happy with the content line-up you’ve got. All the classic components of Mystery Boxes are there, but it works much more intuitively and dynamically, giving you more control and confidence than ever before.

2. On the Cutting Edge: How it works

With the advent and increasing popularity of virtual goods and unboxings, it’s important to understand the technology powering new kinds of Mystery Boxes. The randomness of what a Mystery Box contains remains a core tenant of its appeal, because it marks the difference between winning big or winning small. The key question is how this randomness is achieved. Is the selection process truly fair, or are adjustments being made behind the scenes? Anyone with an interest in Mystery Boxes needs to know just how its contents have been chosen.

In theory, if a particular Mystery Box claims to offer a particular range of goods, everyone who chooses that box should have equal odds of gaining the highest value items. The probability of success shouldn’t vary depending on the circumstances or motives of the outlet, because safeguards should be in place to ensure that everyone who buys has the same chance of gaining top-tier content. User-focused safeguards should be at the centre of any trustworthy Mystery Box site. Those without a fair and transparent system in place may be manipulating your chances of winning big for their own purposes.

Until recently, the vast majority of the online gaming industry used what’s known as black box algorithms to generate randomised data. What this means is that the information fed into and generated out of that algorithm can be viewed and analysed by anyone, but the exact way the algorithm works is unknown to everyone except the company itself. Any number of adjustments can be made to black box algorithms without the end user knowing, all of which will be set up in favour of the company. There is no way to verify the fairness of black box algorithms; the company promises fairness, and the user has to believe them.

Hybe works differently. We utilise provably fair algorithms to ensure transparency in the randomisation process. Our users maintain the ability to generate a random seed to use when executing a roll, and are able to request as many new seeds as they desire prior to their unboxing. The selection process has been fully documented, is totally transparent and cannot be tampered with, by anyone or for any reason. With this evolution in the technology behind random generators, the Mystery Box experience is now defined by the user, not the company.

3. From Apple to Adidas: What’s on Offer

From humble beginnings, the contents of Mystery Boxes has expanded to include almost every category imaginable. A few years ago, they were dominated by geek and gamer culture, great in its own right, but which didn’t leave much for everyone else. Now, there really is something for everyone, no matter your age, gender or interests. It’s not just the range of new content now available, but the quality, which has skyrocketed: people can get designer goods such as the iPhone XR, PlayStation 4 Pro and top Louis Vuitton accessories for a fraction of their retail price, all because of the way Mystery Boxes work.

Tech is one of the most exciting fields of today, and Mystery Boxes are evolving right alongside it. Each year sees new releases from Apple and Samsung to Sony and Microsoft, and few unboxings create the same buzz as the latest mobile or games console, with all its new features and functionalities explored. Receiving a brand new $1,149 iPhone X inside a $249 Mystery Box is the ultimate in risk and reward, and to be able to show off to friends is just the icing on the cake.

Mystery Boxes are also a unique and fast-paced way of upgrading your wardrobe, easier and quicker than going to a shop and picking something out. With the inclusion of top-tier designer brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Supreme and more, it’s never been easier to discover and explore the latest fashion and accessories for a fraction of the price, making them more accessible than ever before. Many of these brands are spearheading the hype, because they know exactly what people are looking for, and platforms like YouTube and Instagram are blowing up with Mystery Box shoppers showing off their latest merchandise.

With any Mystery Box, it’s not just the content, but the experience. What you get and what you do with it is entirely up to you, and with new advances in technology, it’s become easier than ever to buy, share and trade. Whether you’re looking for the latest in Nike Air or Samsung Galaxy or something completely different, there’s a Mystery Box with your name on it.

4. Going Viral: Big Mystery Box Moments

Part of the appeal of Mystery Boxes is the hype surrounding the biggest releases. Unboxings by influencers like PewDiePie, Jake Paul and Harrison Nevel have gained huge traction because they highlight what’s up for grabs with the newest Mystery Box drops. As well as generating a lot of excitement across social media, these videos also help people decide if they want to choose the same box to try their own luck.

eBay offers Mystery Boxes ranging from $20 to $20,000, with the contents of the box varying greatly depending on how much you pay. YouTuber Chad Wild Clay uploaded a video showcasing the difference between the two, gaining over 13 million views. From the $20 box he received low-tech gadgets and games such as VR goggles, sequinned pillowcases and an iPhone thermal-reactive case, altogether far exceeding the price originally paid. In the $20,000 box, he received guitar picks, Marvel mini-figurines, superglue, a torch and a lot of other very low value items. He also received a collection of pennies that, after researching them, were revealed to be worth almost as much as the box itself. While the $20,000 Mystery Box was specially packed for Chad Wild Clay, the video does a good job of showing the differences across boxes – you can win big or small no matter how much you pay.

Similar unboxings can be found on Guava Juice’s channel, from Fortnite-themed boxes to Amazon returns. In one $10,000 eBay Mystery Box, he received four different Rolex watches, and in another $3,500 box he received a set of low value items along with a Gucci jumper and belt, the total value of which adding up to far less than what was paid for the box. As with Chad Wild Clay’s video, many of the Mystery Boxes Guava Juice receives have been packed specially for him, which is totally fine as long as viewers aren’t led to believe otherwise. In the same way some Mystery Box fans share what they’ve gained on Instagram, YouTube content creators add to the hype with their own style of unboxing videos. How you choose to enjoy Mystery Boxes is entirely up to you.

5. Shrouded in Controversy: Misunderstood Reputations and Dark Web Boxes

With any growing industry, controversy is sure to follow, and Mystery Boxes are no exception. From the range and quality of what’s on offer and the randomisation process involved, to misconceptions about how it works and more ominous Mystery Boxes available in the darkest recesses of the internet, the industry has been placed under close scrutiny by enthusiasts and observers alike.

One of the biggest concerns with Mystery Boxes is what to expect. It’s true that it’s a mystery, but it also has to be fair. New technologies guarantee customer confidence in the randomisation process, but what about the authenticity of the contents itself? What about the buzz around a particular Mystery Box or outlet? For the uninitiated, these questions can lead to new questions about the industry itself. The Mystery Box concept draws from traditional activities like Chinese auctions and raffles, a natural evolution of these things where everyone gets something and where there are now much more substantial rewards up for grabs. People who haven’t learnt about Mystery Boxes can be easily misled due to misinformation and, at times, specific brands which don’t operate with fairness and transparency in mind. In the same way the gaming industry is sometimes viewed as something it isn’t, e.g. games promote violence and other criminal behaviour, the Mystery Box industry has a few unfair misconceptions of its own. These are quickly cleared up with a little research behind the way it works. Choosing the right brand is hugely important, because it makes the difference between a good experience and a bad one. Hybe is paving the way for Mystery Boxes that guarantee fairness and transparency for everyone.

Reports of Dark Web Mystery Boxes have been circulating since 2018. The Dark Web itself is a portion of the internet that can’t be accessed without certain software and browsers, and is generally recognised as a bastion of illegal activity, ranging from the buying and selling of drugs to platforms of hate and abuse. Recently YouTube and other social media platforms have jumped on a ‘Deep Web challenge,’ which involves buying Mystery Boxes from the Dark Web and and sharing the unboxing. One of the most notorious examples is Killem’s unboxing, which showed a Mystery Box allegedly ordered from the Dark Web which contained various disturbing items such as a knife, ski mask and some kind of voodoo doll. Whether the video was real or fake remains part of the debate, but with over 7 million views, there’s no denying it attracted a huge amount of attention.

These controversies are an interesting diversion, but can also distract from what most people want and expect from Mystery Box sites. No one wants to be misled by the wrong information, and few people want to receive the kind of content reportedly available in Dark Web Mystery Boxes. This is what makes transparency so important to the future of Mystery Boxes.

6. The Future of Online Shopping: Where we’re going

Mystery Boxes are here to stay, and so is the community. The only question is where we go from here, all the ways we’re evolving to make Mystery Boxes and the Mystery Box community more exciting, accessible and inclusive than ever before. Hybe is offering ground-breaking prices, where you can pay as little as 1% of the retail value for a selected product within one of our boxes. We offer fully authentic products, with all stock tested either through our compliance team or via third parties, so you always know you’re getting the real thing. And we’re paving the way towards absolute transparency, priding ourselves in sustaining honesty and transparency within our product selection processes.

There’s a huge range of goods on offer, from tech to fashion, and it just keeps getting bigger. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or already have a few unboxings under your belt – Hybe has a box for everyone, packed with the hottest content from top brands like Supreme, Nike and Yeezy, so get browsing and start collecting today.