In the United Kingdom, government officials are reportedly mulling plans to reclassify so-called loot boxes in gaming due to concern that these products are training and encouraging children to gamble.
Loot boxes are a kind of in-game purchases, where gamers or players do not know what is in the box until they have bought it. In other words, loot boxes allow players to spend real money to unlock special features, characters, equipment or levels in the game. However, some loot boxes can also be won as rewards in a game, rather than being purchased with real money.
According to emerging media reports, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) is alls set call for substantiation of loot boxes. The move surfaces at a time when many activists are raising concerns over increasing use of loot boxes as well as over the mechanics of these controversial products that allegedly encourage behavior in under-18s, especially teens, that is quite similar to gambling. In a study conducted a couple of years back, researchers found a strong link between loot boxes and problem gambling.
As per some estimates, the controversial loot boxes fetch up to £23 billion each year through video games, which are mostly played by under-18s. The hefty figure is still on the rise, raising concerns. If the British ministers come to a decision to reclassify loot boxes as gambling, it would definitely impact video game developers as they would have either to recreate some games to make them suitable for under-18s or withdraw games containing loot boxes. The loot boxes are well known to have an element of chance but they are currently not classified as gambling. It is for this reason, that loot boxes are not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
It is worth-mentioning here that when game developers have to invest more and more funds to make the game more innovative and impressive, game prices automatically go up which could make the game unaffordable for some gamers. Hence, they make try to earn money in some other ways, such as in-game purchases.
The so-called loot boxes have been a point of contention in a number of countries for the last many years, with many governments considering these products as gambling products. Belgium, for example, banned loot boxes altogether in 2018. However, enforcing a total ban on loot boxes for under-18s might prove very difficult for the UK government, given the fact that consoles and online accounts can be shared by several people.