In the growing backlash against microtransaction and ‘gambling’ loot boxes, the UK House of Lords called today for further investigation and regulation of loot boxes in games immediately.
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry today called for action to be taken against loot boxes in video games across the board, whether it’s a mobile game or a console AAA title.
While the report focuses on gambling as a whole, there was a direct reference to microtransactions and loot boxes in video games. Last year there was a report in the UK that looked into “addictive” technologies such as smartphone video games and loot box gambling.
It was concluded that paid loot boxes in games (such as FIFA’s Ultimate Team, or Apex Legend’s Apex Packs) should be regulated under UK gambling law. Nine months later and the House of Lords is again pushing for immediate regulation.
Although some changes have been brought into action – the publishing of loot box drop rates and a campaign that attempts to teach young people about the risks of virtual gambling – the Lord’s committee believe enough is still not being done to prevent gambling addiction in video games.
A statement that was released alongside the report from today states:
“It is crucial that any future developments in gambling, video gaming or other products that may contain gambling-like elements, which would not currently fall within the definition of gambling, should be brought within the remit of the gambling act as they appear. It is too late to regulate a product as gambling, when it has already caused harm to children and young people. Neither the government nor the gambling commission can afford to wait years before bringing new ‘gambling-like’ products within the remit of the act.”
A report from the Gambling Commission in the UK suggests that the number of gamblers under the age of 18 has almost quadrupled due to the expansion of loot boxes in video games, in titles such as FIFA and popular mobile games.
Loot boxes were effectively banned in Belgium in 2018 and this provides a good case study for the removal of loot boxes from video games. The conversation was started by the Battlefront II microtransaction debacle and EA’s “surprise mechanics” response.
This change means that players in Belgium can now use real money to directly purchase in-game cosmetics and items. In Apex Legends players are rewarded Crafting Materials rather than Apex Packs, and FIFA Ultimate Team is based solely on player-earned rewards rather than purchased packs.
It will be interesting to see how far the regulation goes in the UK and what impact it will have on the gaming industry as a whole.