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UK government demands changes to better protect young people from loot boxes

"Games companies and platforms need to do more."

The UK government has told the UK games industry that if it won't take action on loot boxes, it will draw up legislation that will.

As noted by our colleagues at our sister site, the government today told game publishers that the luxury of regulating itself will cease if it does not take control of the sale of loot boxes to children and young people as those that use loot boxes are "more likely to experience gambling, mental health, financial, and problem gaming-related harms".

Back in June 2020, the UK Government announced it would launch a call for evidence on loot boxes in response to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) inquiry into immersive and addictive technologies, and began inviting responses from the public in September.

After a lengthy investigation, the DCMS now says that loot boxes should not be available to children without consent of parents or guardians, and - in a 90-page report - said it "will not hesitate to consider legislation if companies do not bring in sufficient measures to keep players safe".

Other recommendations include better signalling to players that loot boxes are neither essential to progression nor "guarantee success", as well as measures to limit the amount of purchases that can be made in a set time period. It also wants to see "generous refund policies", too, and the ability to track/view in-game spend.

It also stated that the government has launched the Video Games Research Framework to better understand the positive and negative impacts of gaming.

“We want to stop children going on spending sprees online without parental consent, spurred on by in-game purchases like loot-boxes," said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

"Games companies and platforms need to do more to ensure that controls and age-restrictions are applied so that players are protected from the risk of gambling harms," she added. "Children should be free to enjoy gaming safely, whilst giving parents and guardians the peace of mind they need."

For now, however, the UK government stopped short of implementing legislation to help achieve this.

This wasn't even the first time a British government body has asked for evidence on loot boxes: back in January 2019 the DCMS Committee also called for individuals and members of the public to discuss their experiences as part of its preliminary research into problems with gambling and addiction in video games. As a result of this evidence-gathering, the DCMS Committee recommended that the UK Government regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act, with all the extra rules and regulations that entails.

Earlier this month, political parties in the Netherlands broadly backed a new attempt to block the sale of video game loot boxes in the country. There's also recently been pressure on loot boxes in Spain, too.

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