Skip to main content

UK games industry to restrict access to loot boxes for children

New Industry Principles will "improve protections for all players".

The UK games industry has agreed to restrict access to in-game loot boxes for children via a set of industry guidelines.

UKIE, the industry's trade association, has alongside the government unveiled 11 Industry Principles as part of "improved protections for children, young people and adults following concerns raised about loot boxes".

The Principles include the need to flag the existence of loot boxes in a game prior to purchase, a clear list of the probabilities for loot box contents, and the need for an easy refund policy.

Newscast: Is Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition now a done deal?Watch on YouTube

"Publishing these shared Principles for how the industry approaches loot boxes is a UK first and provides us with a clear direction moving forwards," said UKIE co-CEO Daniel Wood.

"The Principles will improve protections for all players and underlines the industry's commitment to safe and responsible play. We look forward to working collaboratively across industry and with others to implement them over the coming months."

They have been put together by a Technical Working Group consisting of representatives from across the industry, following "extensive engagement" with the government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, other government authorities, academics, third-party advocacy groups, and consumer groups.

Last year the government demanded the UK games industry take action to protect young people from loot boxes. A UK university reported loot boxes cause "financial and emotional harm" to children.

"We've been clear the video games industry needs to do more to protect children and adults from the harms associated with loot boxes," said John Whittingdale, minister for the creative industries.

"These new principles are a big step forward to make sure players can enjoy video games responsibly and safely. I look forward to seeing games companies put the plans into action and will be watching their progress closely."

The 11 Principles as listed by UKIE are as follows:

  1. Make available technological controls
  2. Drive awareness of and uptake of technological controls
  3. Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry
  4. Disclose the presence of Loot Boxes prior to purchase
  5. Give clear probability disclosures
  6. Design and present Loot Boxes in a manner that is easily understandable
  7. Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework
  8. Continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from Loot Boxes
  9. Commit to lenient refund policies
  10. Advance protections for all players
  11. Work with UK Government and other relevant stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of these principles

Loot boxes have been hugely criticised in popular games like EA's FIFA series, which last year stuck with loot boxes for its FIFA 23 Ultimate Team mode after the UK government decided not to legislate the in-game monetisation system.

The UK's decision follows similar moves from other countries. The Australian government, for instance, is seeking to classify all games with loot boxes as mature, while an Austrian court ruled that FIFA's FUT packs violated the country's gambling laws.

Last year political parties in the Netherlands backed a fresh attempt to block loot boxes, but a study claimed Belgium's loot box law wasn't being enforced.

Read this next