UPDATE: The US’ Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has weighed in on the recent ruling from the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, an Sport (DCMS) committee, saying it strongly disagrees with the finding. The DCMS came to the conclusion that paid loot boxes should be regulated as gambling and warned that games which feature loot boxes aimed at children should be banned.
In a statement to GamesIndustry.biz, the ESA over the other side of the pond took very strong opposition to the ruling.
“We take seriously the issues raised in the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, but strongly disagree with its findings,” a representative from the ESA told GI.biz.
“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. In addition, numerous regulatory bodies around the world, including those in Australia, France, Ireland, Germany, and the UK, have come to a conclusion starkly different than that of this committee.”
It should probably come as little surprise to see a government committee come to a different conclusion to the ESA, a trade association designed to directly represent games publishers and developers rather than, you know, actual people adversely affected by loot boxes. We’ll leave it up to you to decide which is more likely to help you and I with the dirty business of loot box monetisation.
Original Story: 13-Sep-2019 – Video game loot boxes should be classed as gambling finds UK House of Commons committee
A UK House of Commons committee has advised that video game loot boxes should be regulated as gambling and steps taken to prevent children from being able to purchase them.
The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) committee issued a report yesterday after extensive research, hearings, and meetings with a number of gaming representatives, arriving at the conclusion that loot boxes are a potentially harmful form of gambling. They come to a very specific distinction on what constitutes a troublesome loot box, saying loot boxes earned through in-game methods are acceptable but, if they can be purchased using real money, then these games should be deemed gambling and both age-rated and regulated accordingly.
“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm,” surmised Damian Collins, the chair of the committee. “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.”
We’ve gone backwards and forwards over whether loot crates do specifically qualify as gambling, primarily because buyers can’t receive a direct cash benefit from loot boxes. These findings conclude that loot box winnings can often be exchanged for cash using trade deals, opening the door for publishers to potentially “profit from problem gamblers”.
A study late last year from the UK Gambling Commission discovered that the number of children with gambling issues had quadrupled over the past two years (450,0000 under 16’s placed a bet within the last week). They surmised this was linked to the prevalence of loot boxes, with an estimated 31% of 11-16 year olds admitting to buying loot boxes. It’s a genuine issue right now so it’s pleasing to see the net begin tighten on some of the more heinous publishers.
“This echoes the Labour party’s long-standing position on loot boxes,” said shadow DCMS minister, Tom Watson. “However, making changes to the existing legislation will not be enough. We need regulation that is fit for the digital age, and this will require a whole new Gambling Act.”
Anyone who tuned in for any of the chats with the likes of EA and Facebook will be aware getting straight answers from these money-grabbing swines was next to impossible. This has actually fed into the committee’s decision, which said in its report that “having struggled to get clear answers and useful information from companies across the games industry in particular, we hope that our inquiry and this report serve to focus all in the industry – particularly large, multinational companies whose games are played all over the world – on their responsibilities to protect their players from potential harms and to observe the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks in all countries their products reach.”
Right now I probably wouldn’t trust this government to get any legislation passed through unless it personally makes them a great deal of money, although fingers crossed we see some changes roll out soon and the more aggressive loot box publishers get their comeuppance.