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Global games industry warned to self-regulate loot boxes ‘before it’s too late’

Industry veterans have called on the global games industry to take action on loot boxes in video games.

While loot crates and microtransactions have been an industry staple for a number of years now, the loot mechanics in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch has drawn the attention of gambling regulators. Many countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have already taken action in relation to gambling laws, and now the United States Federal Trade Commission has indicated it will be specifically investigating how loot boxes impact children.

Speaking at a behind-closed-doors event hosted by legal firm Wiggin (thanks, GamesIndustry.biz), one developer opined that if the industry didn’t take steps to self-regulation, Government legislation would be like a "sledgehammer". Talking to GI.biz after the panel, one developer suggested self-regulation might already be too late, and that "the sledgehammer is coming whether we like it or not".

While the panel acknowledged that investigations into loot boxes suggested they didn’t strictly fall under the definition of gambling in all countries – and dismissed Belgium’s ban on them as just "media attention seeking" – it was, however, accepted that that definition could be updated to include them. A specialist from the Intellectual Property Office speculated that this potential legislation could detrimentally affect the games industry’s ability to secure investment, and thus the panel felt self-regulation could defer government intervention.

"The UK games industry united around age ratings, and it should do again to self-regulate loot boxes before it’s too late," said industry consultant Nicholas Lovell.

Executive director of the IGDA, Jen MacLean, also recently issued an industry-wide call-to-action in response to the United States Federal Trade Commission’s announcement it was launching an investigation into loot box monetization.

By not taking significant action as an industry and global game developer community to self-regulate how loot boxes are used, we run the very real risk that governments around the world will take that action for us, and perhaps create significantly restrictive laws that could impact any random reward elements in games," MacLean said. "I offer my strongest advice to game developers and interactive entertainment businesses on this matter: addressing how loot boxes are used is both the right thing, and the smart thing, for the global game development industry to do."

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond.

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