The Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee in the UK has compiled a report regarding “immersive and addictive technologies.” While many things are discussed in the report, one thing stands out in particular: loot boxes. Loot boxes have been a hot topic for a while now. One senator in the US even tried to ban them. Now it seems the UK may take action as well. According to the DCMS Committee, they should be classified and regulated as gambling.
The battle against loot boxes
The report dives into pieces of evidence to back up its claim. This includes a quote from Ben Lewis-Evans of Epic Games, who claimed loot box mechanics were famous because they “are quite often the ratios used in gambling. The response they tend to get is a very constant and high level response and that’s because you don’t know how many times you have to respond before you get the reward, so people tend to keep it up.” The report also touches on EA’s Ultimate Team feature in the FIFA series. The main problem here is that teams don’t carry over to the next game. This means if you spent money on your team, it’s tied to that game alone.
The end conclusion that the report makes about loot boxes is they should be classified as gambling. In particular, it states they should not be sold to children as a game of chance. The committee also believes rewards in games should be earned by playing the game rather than paying real money:
We recommend that loot boxes that contain the element of chance should not be sold to children playing games, and instead in-game credits should be earned through rewards won through playing the games. [emphasis original] In the absence of research which proves that no harm is being done by exposing children to gambling through the purchasing of loot boxes then we believe the precautionary principle should apply and they are not permitted in games played by children until the evidence proves otherwise.
The report goes on to talk about the psychology in buying loot boxes, the overall framework, and provides more evidence to support regulation. The full report is available to read online.
Despite this, it doesn’t seem like EA agrees. In response to a query from GameDaily, an EA spokesperson explained the issue from their point of view:
We have reviewed and are closely considering the findings of the DCMS Committee report. While we don’t agree with all of the conclusions and recommendations in the report, we do take our responsibilities to players of all ages very seriously.
It seems the fight is long from over. What do you guys think? Let us know what you think in the comments below.