Loot box laws set to hit Parliament

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Loot box concern posed by experts

Lucrative online game loot box have drawn the ire of one Australian politician, who plans to introduce a bill to the Parliament that bans their sale to minors.

MMO Bomb reports that Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie wants to introduce a bill in August that would introduce new measures aimed at combating the aisles of games with loot boxes to people aged under 18.

Wilkie appears unequivocal in his belief that loot boxes are de facto gambling, an equivalence that many game developers have long disagreed with.

“We as a country accept that people over the age of 18 can gamble but let’s make that for adults and give parents a warning,” he said.

“To allow very young children to pay cash for a randomised event that may or may not reward them would meet any definition of gambling.”

Loot boxes are typically available in online games and can require a cash sum to access.

Australia already requires that games that include microtransactions must be labelled as such.

Wilkie said games with loot boxes should be given an R18+ rating, while also being tagged with an additional advisory label.

The Classification Amendment (Loot Boxes) Bill will be put before the lower house in mid-August.

Loot box laws under examination in Australia, UK and US

In 2020, Australia took a proactive step to limit access to loot box by setting age restrictions.

The new regulations require that any person purchasing video game loot boxes will have to show ID.

According to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, access to these boxes and other simulated gambling elements in computer and video games will be restricted to “adults aged 18 years and over, including through the use of mandatory age verification.”

Australia isn’t the first country to try and legislate against the practice.

United States senator Josh Hawley has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of loot boxes to minors, despite taking criticism from gaming industry leaders.

ESA chief executive officer Stanley Pierre-Louis, attacked the United States bill.

“This legislation is flawed and riddled with inaccuracies,” he said.

“It does not reflect how video games work nor how our industry strives to deliver innovative and compelling entertainment experiences to our audiences.

“The impact of this bill would be far-reaching and ultimately prove harmful to the player experience, not to mention the more than 220,000 Americans employed by the video game industry.

But keeping the loot boxes in check has become a fairly popular policy position.

Former United States presidential candidate Andrew Yang also called for new regulations during his run for presidency.

He explained that there is a very direct resemblance between gambling and loot boxes.

“These mechanisms can seem similar to gambling because of the random outcome, keeping players (usually kids) engaged on the platform for longer or costing them hundreds or thousands of dollars in addition to the base cost of the game.

“Some games have a ‘free-to-play’ model, where the game itself is free but they’re funded by the purchase of these loot boxes.”

The United Kingdom is also arguing that loot boxes can become a gateway to gambling.

The Royal Society for Public Health recently published a report that indicated that loot boxes are “polluting youth and that regulation should be implemented”.

According to RSPH chief executive Shirley Crame, even young people are seeing a need for regulation.

“However, we, and the young people we’ve spoken to, are concerned at how firmly embedded gambling-type features are in many of these games.

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