The House of Lords Gambling Committee says video game loot boxes should be regulated under gambling laws.
The Lords say Loot Boxes should be classified as “games of chance”. Bringing them in line with the UK Gambling Act 2005. "If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling," said their report. "The government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation".
The report looks at a wide range of issues with the industry, though the focus is those which target children. "There is academic research which proves that there is a connection, though not necessarily a causal link, between loot box spending and problem gambling”, said the report.
Previously, the government told the committee looking into loot boxes that they would review the Gambling Act to focus on loot boxes. The Lords report, however, states that “This issue requires more urgent attention”.
Across Europe action has already been taking to curve the use of loot boxes. In Belgium, loot boxes were banned in 2018, due to similar fears that the Lords brought up in this report. Earlier in 2020 the game-rating agency Pegi said they would add clearer warning labels.
The games industry, in its sneaky attempt to curve any regulation; especially adding a warning to the box, saw Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy add paid content after release. While not loot boxes, it paints a picture of what the industry might do to work around this.
The report also mentions esports, with researchers telling the committee; "Esports represents the largest growth opportunity for sports gambling and presents a particular worry, as its players and spectators are young."
The next step
The games industry is massive. It’s the largest entertainment industry in the world — and it’s only going to grow as more and more young people discover gaming. Some of the most popular titles in the industry, which are focused at children, have two of the most problematic practices. FIFA uses the long-established “card opening”. With constant additional cards added each week, the constant drive to “have the best” drives some players to spend thousands. The problem even goes as deep as the professional scene. FIFA esports stars have to spend upwards of $5,000 at the start of a new FIFA release just to be competitive in the scene.
The other major problematic title is Fortnite. Which uses a kind of FOMO to make players want the latest skins before they leave the store, with no known return date. Alternatively, the game encourages players to play countless games each week to level up their “season pass”. Players can also just purchase levels if they miss out. The industry needs change, and while the UK making changes is a good step, it needs global change to have any meaningful impact on the industry. What happened in Belgium was a great start, but the small user base in the region just saw games shut off loot boxes in that country and make no changes globally.