DCMS asks for evidence on loot boxes

Simona Boshkova | Published 24 Sep 2020, 12:14 p.m.

Loot boxes are in-game containers purchased in video games with virtual or real money that award players with a random selection of virtual items. Players can use these items in the games to improve their gaming experience or character. But, when purchasing, players don’t know which item they will get until after they have opened the loot box. This has raised concerns that loot boxes encourage gambling-like behaviour among young people. For that reason, some countries have classified loot boxes as gambling and placed restrictions on them.

At the beginning of this year, one gaming company called for the end of the loot boxes and decided to stop offering them in a popular game. Last month, there has been a workshop on identifying problems with loot boxes. And if you remember, back in June, the UK Government announced it would launch a call for evidence that loot boxes encourage problem gambling. Well, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) launched that call yesterday, with the purpose of establishing whether loot boxes lead to problem gambling or not.

Seeking experiences of players and video game companies

The UK Government’s DCMS Committee has finally launched the call for evidence on loot boxes and is asking for experiences and suggestions. With many people spending a lot of time online and as the online gambling industry is continuously increasing, the open call for evidence will help DCMS to understand people’s experiences of loot boxes in video games.

DCMS has set out plans for the call for evidence in June and has now launched the initiative. It will seek the experiences of players and their parents or guardians as well as high-quality data from video games companies, developers, academia, civil society, and any other organisations that are interested in this issue. The call for evidence will be open until November 22 and anyone can submit their feedback on the UK Government’s website.

The findings will help the Government understand the size of loot boxes and how they work, how many people are purchasing them, as well as the impact of current protections such as parental controls and consumer regulations. This issue was also discussed last year when the DCMS Committee asked the UK Government to regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act, with all the rules and regulations that entail. So, depending on how this call for evidence proceeds, it’s possible that loot boxes will face regulations in the UK.

Video game industry to develop safer environments for children

Video game industry is one of the biggest industries in the UK which contributed £2.6 billion to the economy in 2018, employed 27,000 people in 2019 and has grown more than 16 times faster than the wider UK economy since 2010. Therefore, according to the Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage, the video game industry is making good progress to develop safer environments for children to play in, such as setting parental controls and limiting playtime.

One of the measures for safer video game environment is this consultation for loot boxes. According to Caroline, the UK Government has listened to parents’ concerns about loot boxes, and this call can help them examine and understand any evidence of problem gambling caused by them. In addition, DCMS also plans to host a series of meetings to discuss issues and solutions such as protecting players from possible harm.

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