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Loot Box Clamp down in the UK

UK Gaming body introduces new principles to better regulate loot box sales online.

By WoorLord Mon 24 Jul, 2023 4:32 PM
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A feature of most online computer games nowadays is the loot box system where players purchase items using real cash from an in-game store to boost their character’s stats, buy new weapons, or cosmetically improve their appearance. The practice has been widely criticised by governments around the world, but the loudest criticism has come from gambling charities and child welfare groups, who claim the loot box system is introducing children to the dangers of gambling at a young age.

The issue is caused because loot boxes (sometimes called loot crates) randomly generate their rewards, which means if the purchaser doesn’t get what they want or need the first-time round, they are tempted to try again by buying more loot boxes. It is easy, therefore, to see how people can quickly end up spending much more money on a particular game this way, and go on to develop unhealthy habits with this feature of their favourite game.

The UK Government has pondered how to react to legitimate concerns from gambling charities and others for over three years, and finally last year issued an ultimatum to the gaming industry in the UK to either provide sensible self-governance, or risk having the practice banned altogether, as is the case in both the Netherlands and Belgium.

In response the UK gaming industry trade association, UKie (UK interactive entrainment) has recently issued 11 new principles it claims will allow the industry to better protect gamers and avoid the need for government to act. The principles are:
  • 1. Make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a Loot Box.
  • 2. Drive awareness of and uptake of technological controls with all players.
  • 3. Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry.
  • 4. Disclose the presence of Loot Boxes prior to purchase.
  • 5. Give clear probability disclosures.
  • 6. Design and present Loot Boxes in a manner that is easily understandable.
  • 7. Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework.
  • 8. Continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from Loot Boxes for real money.
  • 9. Commit to lenient refund policies on directly purchased Loot Boxes or purchased in-game currency used to acquire Loot Boxes.
  • 10. Advance protections for all players.
  • 11. Work with UK Government and other relevant stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of these principles.

These principles are to be reviewed in 12 months’ time to understand and assess their effectiveness at protecting young people online.

John Whittingdale, who is the Government minister for the creative industries in the UK, told the BBC:
"We've been clear the video games industry needs to do more to protect children and adults from the harms associated with loot boxes.

"These new principles are a big step forward to make sure players can enjoy video games responsibly and safely. I look forward to seeing games companies put the plans into action and will be watching their progress closely."
What do you think of loot boxes – are they harmless fun or can they cause dangerous addictions to gamble? Let us know in the comments below.

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Mon 24 Jul, 2023 5:02 PM
Those principles would definitely put a cramp on sto, doesn't really follow any of those...especially the odds one, players literally had to calculate the odds of
Tue 25 Jul, 2023 10:28 AM
Loot boxes are a scourge on gaming, it needs to be tackled.