Loot boxes have been controversial since they were introduced in the video game industry. One of the biggest issues that stem around them is the problem when a game utilizes them as a way to provide advantages, aka Pay-To-Win. Star Wars: Battlefront II was one of the biggest examples of this when it was released. Over the years, loot boxes have become less controversial as they have become used for cosmetic items only. But, as loot boxes have become a staple within the video game industry, other countries are treating loot boxes differently. Some like Belgium and the Netherlands have banned them and any game that has them won’t be released, such as Diablo Immortal. The United Kingdom decided to launch an investigation into loot boxes to determine whether or not they violated its gambling act. After a two-year investigation, the U.K. has announced that it will not be making any changes to the Gambling Act with regards to loot boxes at this time.
“As the evidence base on loot boxes is still emerging, and direct government intervention may risk unintended consequences, our view is that it would be premature to take legislative action without first pursuing enhanced industry-led measures to deliver protections for children and young people and all players,” says Rt Hon Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “As a result, the government does not intend to make changes to the Gambling Act or to other statutory consumer protections with regards to loot boxes at this time.”
Talking about how they came to this decision, Dorries said that they analyzed the perspectives and evidence that was submitted. She said that the call for evidence has strengthened the understanding of the issue but it has also demonstrated the challenges and limitations in the available research. “The call for evidence has found an association between loot boxes and harms, but we have not found whether there is a causative link,” Dorries said.
Dorries believes that “It is particularly important that children and young people are protected. In response to our findings, our view is that children and young people should not be able to purchase loot boxes without parental approval. In addition, all players should have access to spending controls and transparent information to support their gaming.” Companies and platforms have taken important steps to strengthen protections for children and young people, and adults. “We welcome this, and we welcome the commitments from the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) trade body and its members to go further,” Dorries said. “Games developers, publishers and platforms operating in the UK must take responsibility for ensuring player safety, and work collaboratively to find tangible industry-led solutions.”
Dorries says that the government will work with industry, academics, and third sector partners to take forward these objectives, including through the establishment of a new technical working group, convened by DCMS. We will also launch a new Video Games Research Framework to develop better evidence on the impacts, positive and negative, of loot boxes and video games more broadly.