The UK has recently been trying to get a piece of legislation passed called the Online Safety Bill, which would supposedly protect people from so-called ‘online harms’. This legislation is stalling now due to the Conservative Party leadership election. In a new report, the government is now saying that it will not regulate video game loot boxes under gambling regulations, despite claims that they encourage gambling and in some cases lead to gambling addiction.
For non-gaming readers, loot boxes are a means for game developers to make extra money from players. While they are present on different gaming platforms, they are prevalent on mobile games because these are normally made available for free in the hopes that customers will buy in-game items or can be monetized through advertisements.
While there’s nothing wrong with buying items inside a game if you know what you’re getting, some people are worried about loot boxes. Players pay for unknown items and may keep buying more until they find what they are looking for. When children are involved, they may also spend money on their parents’ debit or credit card, which can cause financial problems if the transactions are unable to be reversed by banks.
While the government won’t regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act 2005, it has said that game publishers should protect vulnerable players and reveal the odds of winning particular items in loot boxes. Game publishers, such as EA, have previously defended loot boxes, comparing them to Kinder Eggs where you get a surprise toy inside.