The body that represents the UK gaming industry has announced a set of guidelines to restrict children’s access to the controversial gamification technique of loot boxes.
Loot boxes are in-game purchases that give players something at random. Since their prominence in games over the past decade, regulators around the globe have questioned if they have any similarities to gambling.
Last year, after a 22-month consultation, the UK government decided that loot boxes would not be banned, nor would they be regulated under the Gambling Act.
The government instead said they will regulate with “industry-led” protection measures.
Both Belgium and the Netherlands have banned loot boxes due to their similarities with gambling.
Nadine Dorries, culture secretary at the time, said in July last year that “direct government intervention may risk unintended consequences” due to the technology still emerging.
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Ukie, the trade body for the UK games and interactive entertainment industry, released the set of guidelines this week – after spending twelve months working on them.
Ukie says the 11 specific rules “underline the industry’s commitment to safe and responsible play”.
The rules include making technological controls available for the industry to restrict anyone under the age of 18 from accessing loot boxes without parental consent.
Although these controls are available on a lot of consoles and game platforms, Ukie says that not enough awareness is being driven to them.
Another guideline will force game companies to disclose the inclusion of loot boxes before the user purchases a game.
Game companies will also have to show the profitability of individual boxes.
It comes after the once “recession-proof” video game industry witnessed a rare decrease in user growth as the world manoeuvred itself out of the coronavirus pandemic in 2022.
The industry has also been hindered by rising inflation causing customers to tighten their purse strings and semiconductor shortages that have led to a slowdown in the supply of gaming consoles.
Leading gaming companies were also hit by regulations throughout 2022. For example, China had a nine-month freeze on issuing approvals to new game releases as part of an overall crackdown on the gaming industry.