A department within the British Government has announced plans to put out a call this week for evidence regarding the potentially deleterious effects of loot boxes in video games.
It’s been a couple of years since EA was brought before Parliament and attempted to wiggle out of their shenanigans with Star Wars Battlefront II with the laughable excuse that loot boxes were “surprise mechanics.” But while Battlefront II did undergo some changes (ending up as one of the PlayStation Plus subscriber titles this month), other EA games such as the FIFA series of soccer simulators didn’t seem to have made appreciably similar changes. According to a story in The Guardian, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking at loot boxes in FIFA and similar games, potentially ahead of a larger overhaul of gambling legislation dating back to 2005.
A select committee heard testimony last year that the contents of loot boxes could be traded on third-party websites. Subsequent to that testimony, the committee recommended that they be treated as gambling products. A Parliamentary group investigating gambling harm, through their chairwoman Carolyn Harris, stated, “They are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalise and encourage young people to take a chance. All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling.”
The article mentions a study performed by the University of York last year, who found that some 71% of the titles on Steam featured loot boxes in some fashion or another. The study indicated that a decade earlier, only about 4% of titles had such a mechanic.
It is unknown what sort of new evidence the DCMS Department is likely to find which wasn’t already previously available or which could easily be obtained. At the very least, there will be plenty of anecdotal evidence of both irresponsible players (and their potentially irresponsible parents) alongside well documented predatory practices by game developers. Game Luster will keep track of this story as it develops.