The European government is eyeing the video game market. Recently, the EU Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection published the results of an investigation on the topic of loot boxes. The document proposes a different look at the control of this area. Key suggestions include not being limited by gaming laws.
According to the report, loot boxes carry a gaming component which is similar to the best Australian pokies. They are addictive, stimulate an irresistible desire to play, and force players to spend more and more.
But fighting loot boxes is difficult. One of the reasons is the willingness of the gaming market to change rapidly. As soon as the first legal prohibitions on this mechanic began, several developers and publishers began to rely on a different type of monetization. We are talking about battle passes, which also encourage users to spend a lot of time in games to be able to complete all the content and get cosmetic rewards.
Another problem: the struggle of regional regulators with loot boxes exclusively at the level of gaming legislation. This is easily bypassed by companies: they simply stop promoting specific games and selling lootboxes in them.
Since the regulation of gaming legislation is assigned to the participating countries and cannot be all-Union in nature, titles are still available in other countries of the European Union. This leads to a fragmentation of the video game market in Europe and shows the limitations of what the authors of the report consider to be an effective approach to fighting loot boxes.
The committee sees the solution in acting on the side of consumer protection legislation. At this level, restrictions can have an all-Union force, be a single set of rules for the entire European gaming industry.
This will allow:
- increase the effectiveness of measures already existing in different countries (including banning the worst loot boxes; informing about loot boxes on the game box; ban on advertising the purchase of loot boxes among minors; introducing parental control; informing users about how games work)
- introduce new rules, as well as improve existing practices (for example, the report says that parental controls cannot be effective if the majority do not know how to use them: such a setting should be intuitive, and also attractive even for adult players who want to protect themselves from spending too much).
But it’s not just European Union officials who are concerned about loot boxes today. Previously, in other regions, measures were taken to limit this mechanic:
- in early July, the UK House of Lords announced the need to recognize loot boxes as a regulated game mechanic;
- in April, the US and Canada introduced separate labeling for loot box games;
- In March in Australia, MPs from the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Commission proposed to restrict access to loot boxes to players under 18.