After approximately nine months of research, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, a special committee of the UK Parliament, has concluded that loot boxes should be regulated under Britain’s Gambling Act. The DCMS Committee’s 84 page report on “immersive and addictive technologies” was published this past Thursday.
Additionally, the DCMS’s report recommends that the UK government establish a games industry tax that would go towards investigating the potentially harmful effects of gaming, as well as push Pan European Gaming Information or PEGI, the European content rating system, to add gambling content warnings for games with loot boxes and raise the minimum ages to purchase those titles accordingly.
The DMCS report also contests that if the government continues to hold the view that loot boxes are not a form of gambling, then the government should publish its own paper explaining why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act despite the DCMS’s findings. Previously, the UK Gambling Commission stated that the current laws don’t interpret loot boxes as gambling as there isn’t real-world cash value to the prizes from loot boxes.
In a statement to Gamesindustry.biz, a spokesperson for Electronic Arts said, “We have reviewed and are closely considering the findings of the DCMS Committee report. While we don’t agree with all of the conclusions and recommendations in the report, we do take our responsibilities to players of all ages very seriously.” EA’s Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs Kelly Hopkins appeared before the UK Parliament’s DCMS Committee in June to participate in an oral evidence session and share his position on loot boxes in gaming, where he defined them as “surprise mechanics” similar to a “Kinder Egg.”
EA’s statement goes on to say that they “have an ongoing commitment to player safety and well-being whenever they are playing our games or engaging in our communities. We will continue to look at how we can contribute to productive research and solutions for the topics raised in this report, and we look forward to continuing our ongoing dialogue with the UK government.” EA is a major player in the current loot box controversy, largely for the negative reception of the surprise mechanics in Star Wars: Battlefront II.
The Entertainment Software Association also provided a statement to Gamesindustry.biz following the DCMS’s report recommending loot box regulations. “We take seriously the issues raised in the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, but strongly disagree with its findings,” the ESA representative said. “As demonstrated by the recent announcement of policies regarding the disclosure of the relative rarity or probability of obtaining virtual items in paid loot boxes as well as the robust parental controls that empower parents to control in-game purchases, the video game industry is a leader in partnering with parents and players to create enjoyable video game experiences.”
The ESA represents many major game publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Take-Two, and Tencent. In August of this year, the ESA announced that the major console companies Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo agreed to disclose the odds of loot boxes on all games on their platforms by the close of 2020.