Loot boxes in video games: DCMS calls for evidence

September 23, 2020

In June 2020, the UK government responded to the concerns expressed during the DCMS Select Committee’s Immersive and Addictive Technologies Inquiry, announcing that the government would launch a call for evidence to gather evidence and understand the impact of loot boxes. 

The call for evidence explains that loot boxes are features in video games which may be accessed through gameplay, or purchased with in-game items, virtual currencies, or directly with real-world money. They contain randomised items, so players do not know what they will get before opening them, but they will get something. The items are usually either cosmetic, for example, items of clothing for avatars, or power-ups to improve the playing experience. Loot boxes vary in the way they are accessed, their cost, how the random reward is selected and in the content they return. They are a form of micro-transaction where they are available as an in-game purchase. However, loot boxes are only one part of the in-game purchase market. Their unique element is the chance mechanism, which raises the issue of gambling. For other forms of in-game purchase, players will know what item they will receive in advance of purchase.

The UK government has also committed to review the Gambling Act 2005 and has now launched the call for evidence targeted at two groups with separate questions for each group:

  • Video games players and adults responsible for children and young people who play video games; and
  • Video games businesses, and researchers and organisations interested in video games and loot boxes.

The key questions cover:

  • Loot box harms – to understand if and how loot boxes may cause harm;
  • In-game purchases market –  to understand the loot box and wider in-game purchases market and how it operates; and
  • Current protections – to understand how and why protections such as parental controls and tools to manage spending and access in video games, video games labels (such as PEGI ratings) and consumer regulations are applied to loot boxes, and how effective they are.

With people spending increasing amounts of time online and as the industry, gaming habits, and the technology that supports it continues to evolve, the open call for evidence aims to help the government to understand people’s positive and negative experiences of loot boxes in video games. Further, the findings will give the government a clearer understanding of the size of the loot box and in-game purchases market in the UK, how it operates, and the impact of current protections such as parental controls and consumer regulations.

The call for evidence will be open until November 22 2020.