The UK Government is letting the game industry off with a warning concerning the sale of loot boxes to children.
The decision comes after an investigation spurred by the DCMS Select Committee’s request that the government regulate loot box sales. However, the UK government determined that while loot boxes share some similarities with gambling, they don’t fall under its definition.
“While many loot boxes share some similarities with traditional gambling products, we view the ability to legitimately cash out rewards as an important distinction,” says the UK Government. “In particular, the prize does not normally have real-world monetary value outside of the game, and its primary utility is to enhance the in-game experience.”
Political Stances on Loot Boxes
The UK government isn’t the only one questioning loot boxes. The Norwegian Consumer Council recently released a report on the negative impacts of loot boxes which is backed by 18 European countries. Likewise, six Dutch political parties feel loot boxes should be banned.
The UK government informed the game industry that it must improve protections, not only for children but for all gamers, or it may make legislative changes in the future. Additionally, it proposes that loot box purchases should only be available to children upon parental consent. However, some worry that banning kids from purchasing loot boxes could simply lead to more children using adult accounts.
The DCMS will create a technical working group which will include game publisher and platform representatives, to investigate the positive and negative impacts of loot boxes along with a new Video Games Research Framework.
Evidence shows that gamers who purchase loot boxes are more likely to experience gambling, mental health and financial difficulties. However, the government stated there is currently no causative link between loot boxes and experiencing other harmful issues.
“All players, including parents and children and young people, should have access to and be aware of spending controls and transparent information to support safe and responsible gaming,” said the government in its report.
The government also stated that since children have poor impulse control, they are more likely to experience harm from loot box purchases. In its research, the government found that some gamers felt loot boxes increased their depression or anxiety or otherwise impacted their mental health. Others have reported that loot boxes purchase led to their participation in online slot machines and other forms of gambling.