On September 12th, the UK Parliament published the “Immersive and addictive technologies report“, which looked at several examples of potentially damaging business practices carried out by video games companies, as well as cases of gamers paying out large sums of money on in-game purchases. The report covers many aspects of in-game purchases and their effects on vulnerable groups such as minors, but one of the most discussed topics was the implementation of loot boxes.
Damian Collins, Chair of the DCMS Committee stated:
“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the Government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.“
The recommendations of the report state that in regards to loot boxes, sale to any person under the age of 18 should not be allowed, and that loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling, and should therefore fall under the regulation of the Gambling Act 2005. The report included a statistic stating that “31% of 11–16 year olds have paid money or used in-game items to open loot boxes” (section 73 of full report). Previously, the UK Gambling Watchdog told MPs that loot boxes did not fall under gambling legislation as the contents did not have a monetary value. Several countries have already banned the sale of loot boxes, whilst others are introducing legislation to restrict their sale.
The report also stated that those involved had difficulty acquiring clear answers from gaming industry representatives. Whilst several negative aspects of the gaming industry were highlighted in the report, it does acknowledge that “the vast majority of people who play games find it a positive experience”. The report highlights the necessity in introducing regulations to protect vulnerable minorities, and to ensure that organisations within the industry are being held responsible for their practices.