In an effort to avoid exposing young gamers to gambling, lawmakers in the United Kingdom say that video game makers should avoid selling loot boxes and other randomized microtransactions for real world money, and allow gamers to earn those rewards through playtime instead.
A lengthy report published earlier this week by the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee examined the relationship between video games, gambling, and addictive behavior. The report gathers years worth of data and testimony from industry professionals and offers several recommendations for new research and regulations.
Though the DCMS committee said it "struggled to get clear answers and useful information" from the gaming industry, it made clear policy suggestions to make companies accept more responsibility for how their games impact players. The report acknowledges that there's still much more research to be done on the relationship between video games and gambling, but the committee recommends pre-emptive action to protect children from potentially predatory practices.
Lawmakers around the world have been adopting new methods to regulate video games as the industry adopts new business models. Many of the world's most popular video games are free to play, but they can earn billions through small microtransactions that charge players for extra content. Those microtransactions can offer anything from cosmetic items and unlockable characters to extra lives and level skips.
As controversy mounts, major video game publishers have been slowly moving away from loot boxes and adopting new strategies for microtransactions. However, the use of loot boxes in some of the world's most popular games has launched a global conversation about the monetization methods used in video games.