For all its talk of “surprise mechanics” EA was seemingly unable to convince UK lawmakers that loot boxes are good thing for games.
You may recall earlier this year EA’s vice president of legal and government affairs, Kerry Hopkins, described loot boxes as surprise mechanics and likened them to a lucky packet.
This statement was made to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee during its inquiry into immersive technologies, and particularly the addictive aspect of games.
That committee has spent the last few months speaking with industry representatives but it appears to have struggled in that regard.
“Having struggled to get clear answers and useful information from companies across the games industry in particular, we hope that our inquiry and this report serve to focus all in the industry—particularly large, multinational companies whose games are played all over the world—on their responsibilities to protect their players from potential harms and to observe the relevant legal and regulatory frameworks in all countries their products reach,” the committee wrote.
And in the UK, protecting the players is the main aim.
The committee has said that it should set up a scientific working group to investigate the effects gambling-like mechanics have on players. What’s more is that the committee has recommended that loot boxes and gambling mechanics be removed from games for children.
“We recommend that loot boxes that contain the element of chance should not be sold to children playing games, and instead in-game credits should be earned through rewards won through playing the games. In the absence of research which proves that no harm is being done by exposing children to gambling through the purchasing of loot boxes, then we believe the precautionary principle should apply and they are not permitted in games played by children until the evidence proves otherwise,” said the committee.
That last point is an important one because seemingly despite claiming nobody is negatively impacted by loot boxes and gambling, game companies cannot present evidence that proves that.
In addition to this, games which contain loot boxes or gambling mechanics should be marked as such and display the appropriate age restriction.
“The Government should bring forward regulations under section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 in the next parliamentary session to specify that loot boxes are a game of chance. If it determines not to regulate loot boxes under the Act at this time, the Government should produce a paper clearly stating the reasons why it does not consider loot boxes paid for with real-world currency to be a game of chance played for money’s worth,” added the committee.
Truth be told this has been a long time coming and with other European countries also moving to classify loot boxes as gambling, the jig may just be up for publishers and developers who employ these tactics.
You can read the committee’s exhaustive report at this link.[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]