Aussie government takes on loot boxes
Video game loot boxes are under serious scrutiny by Australian lawmakers who are looking to put them behind an age-verification wall. It’s the latest chapter in a controversy that’s raged around the world with no clear answer. At the heart of the argument is a new wrinkle on the old games of skill vs games of chance that asks, “Are players merely paying to win?”
The driving force behind the effort to regulate loot boxes in Australia is a report from the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs which states clearly, “The committee recommends that the Office of the eSafety Commissioner or other relevant government department report to the Australian government on options for restricting access to loot boxes and other simulated gambling elements in computer and video games to adults aged 18 years or over, including through the use of mandatory age verification.”
In short, the Commission sees a pretty clear link between loot boxes and gambling, and they’re hardly the only ones to make that connection. Similar efforts to regulate loot box content to minors have been tried or enacted in the UK, the US and many other countries with varying degrees of success.
Not surprisingly, a recent effort to restrict loot box access to minors in the US was met with disdain by ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis. In a statement reported on by Gamespot he criticized the bill saying, “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.”
As it stands today, loot boxes remain largely unregulated in most parts of the world, including Australia.