Loot boxes are a feature of modern video games that allow players to win in-game prizes by blindly buying “boxes” that may or may not contain valuable prizes. While video game players love loot boxes, and their slot machine energy, critics have pointed out that they are a likely pathway to problem gambling and want them regulated accordingly.
The UK video game industry has responded to those calls for regulation with its set of guidelines; and those guidelines are significantly more robust than expected.
Earlier this week UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), a video game trade group set up specifically to deal with loot boxes, made those guidelines public. The main feature of Ukie’s plan is a requirement that parents approve loot boxes purchases for anyone under the age of 18 using technological controls. Ukie also suggested that game makers put clear warnings on games with loot boxes to insure parents can keep those kinds of games from their children.
Most surprisingly, Ukie suggested that video game makers and retailers institute very liberal return policies on games that include loot boxes. This would give parents who accidentally purchase loot box games new options.
These new guidelines are a clear move by the video game business to stay ahead of government regulation and it seems to have worked. John Whittingdale, minister for the creative industries, lauded the move in comments reported on by the BBC saying, “We’ve been clear the video games industry needs to do more to protect children and adults from the harms associated with loot boxes. These new principles are a big step forward to make sure players can enjoy video games responsibly and safely. I look forward to seeing games companies put the plans into action and will be watching their progress closely.”