A petition has been started that looks to push the UK Government into investigating loot boxes in video games. More and more titles are adding the loot box system into their games as a way of monetising players beyond their initial purchase. In the UK, it is illegal to gamble under the age of 18 and it is also illegal to target gambling to minors.
The argument rests on whether, in the eyes of the law, loot boxes and the mechanics behind them are in line with that of gambling. If they do, games would likely be required to submit to the same laws and regulations as gambling does. If it is found they are gambling systems then the question is then on whether games target minors with the feature. The last one is a little trickier for some games as a PEGI rating of 18 is legally binding in the UK meaning minors shouldn’t be playing those games and are definitely not the target audience. Games like Overwatch with the rating of 12 would be more at risk in this scenario.
Games like Overwatch, Destiny 2, NBA 2K18, Forza Motorsport 7 and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War have used the system in various ways and varying levels of impact on gameplay. Mobile games have also used the system in the past as the developers race to a $0 price point for the game itself and instead make their money in-game.
The petition reads
Adapt gambling laws to include gambling in video games which targets children.
Many video game companies in recent years have introduced mechanics which are essentially gambling of which are targeted at children and vulnerable adults. While not currently considers gambling by law they do copy many traits to make them as addictive and can lead to real money being lost/earned.
Gambling in video games mostly involves ‘loot boxes’ where players use virtual currency (often bought with real money) to earn in game items often worth less than what they paid (sometimes more) hence its gambling.
Currently only china has introduced new laws to force companies to display the odds of winning which had been standard in the uk gambling industry for years.
While a number of online petitions often fall on deaf ears, the UK has a system in place whereby if a petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the government must respond. If a petition reaches 100,000 signatures it is considered for debate in Parliament. Currently, the Loot Boxes petition is just shy of that 10,000 mark. It has until the 4th April 2018 to reach its targets.