UK Government Takes Action on Loot Boxes with New Guidelines

The UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has released an update on industry-led measures to enhance player protections in relation to loot boxes in video games. Following the recommendations from DCMS, the industry trade body UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) has developed and published 11 principles on loot boxes. 

UK Government Calls for Improved Safeguards as Concerns Grow Over Loot Boxes in Video Games

While loot boxes are not explicitly classified as gambling products, concerns have been raised about the potential risk of harm they pose, particularly to young people. 

The new industry guidance focuses on several key principles. It emphasizes the importance of technological controls to restrict the acquisition of loot boxes by individuals under the age of 18 without parental consent. The guidance also calls for improved age assurance technologies and a commitment to refund policies to mitigate financial harms associated with loot boxes. Furthermore, it emphasizes the need for clear probability disclosures to inform players about the likelihood of receiving specific items or categories of items in loot boxes.

The guidance also highlights the significance of supporting the Video Games Research Framework, which facilitates data-driven research on video games. Additionally, the guidance addresses the unauthorized external sale of items acquired from loot boxes for real money, advocating for IP protection measures to combat such sales.

Other counties such as Australia and the Netherlands have also cracked down on the use of loot boxes in video games.

£1M Campaign to Educate Parents on Game Guidelines Featuring Judi Love

To raise awareness and educate players and parents about these guidelines, a £1 million ($1.3 million) public information campaign will be launched, featuring broadcaster Judi Love. This campaign aims to guide parents on the use of parental controls to manage in-game purchases, screen time, online interactions, and access to age-appropriate content.

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The DCMS expects the games industry, coordinated by Ukie, to fully implement the phl63 guidance and report back on its implementation progress. The government will monitor the effectiveness of the guidance over a 12-month period and assess its impact on player protection. 

While some stakeholders may advocate for legislative intervention, the government believes that an industry-led approach is currently more suitable, given the dynamic nature of loot boxes and in-game purchases. 

At the same time, new research has indicated a link between spending on loot boxes in video games and symptoms of problem gambling. The study focused on 400 regular gamers aged 18-24 and found that higher spending on loot boxes correlated with a higher likelihood of engaging in gambling behavior. Other research has also suggested a similar link between gambling addiction and loot boxes.