A recent petition calling for the U.K. government to regulate loot boxes under its gambling laws has finally garnered an official response, and the results are more forward-thinking than you may expect.
The petition called for the government to “adapt gambling laws to include gambling in video games which targets children” and currently has over 15,000 signatures. The amount of signatures required to earn a response from the government is 10,000, while 100,000 will trigger a debate within the halls of Parliament.
For starters, the government stated that the Video Standards Council, which classifies video games in the U.K. and applies PEGI ratings to games, “is discussing these issues with the PEGI Council and its Experts Group to determine whether any changes to the PEGI criteria need to be made,” according to the official response. Depictions of gambling in games, like playing cards in Red Dead Redemption, come into consideration when rating games, but as of right now there’s no standard on rating what some would consider actual gambling in the form of loot boxes.
The government also announced in its official response that the Gambling Commission “also asked the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board to examine the wider relationship between children and gambling.” On top of that, the response states that the “government is committed to ensuring that consumers are properly protected and that children’s vulnerability and inexperience is not exploited by aggressive commercial practices” under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 act. While neither of these statements guarantee changes, they do insinuate that the U.K. government considers loot boxes a serious enough topic for further research and investigation in regards to whether purchasing them might constitute gambling.
Thanks to their more recent prevalence and commercial successes, loot boxes have become a hot-button issue within the gaming community. Review aggregator OpenCritic recently announced that its changing its policies to include statements about “business model intrusiveness” for games that include loot boxes and microtransactions. The decision to include stat-buffing loot boxes in games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront II has drawn the ire of those games’ player bases.
Loot boxes are already being regulated in at least one country. China passed a law in 2016 that forces developers to reveal the drop rates of item types of paid-for loot boxes. It will be interesting to see if this petition in the U.K. will cause at least one other government to follow suit.