MPs appeal for ban on loot boxes for kids

MPs appeal for ban on loot boxes for kids

12th September 2019 1 By Jordan Heal

A group of MPs are calling on the UK government to crackdown on loot boxes or even ban them for children.

The ministers are concerned about the amount of money players can unwittingly spend attempting to improve game-play within particular free games.

In some titles, such as Apex Legends, micro-transactions are used purely on a cosmetic basis and provide no advantage to players. In others, such as FIFA Ultimate Team, they could offer players with cards that do provide an advantage and, as such, these types of micro-transactions have been dubbed ‘pay-to-win’.

Electronic Arts (EA) has found itself under increased scrutiny for its persistence in using micro-transactions.

The Star Wars: Battlefront II remake game epitomised this. If a player wished to don the role of Darth Vader, they would need to either pay or grind for 40 hours.

This caused a backlash from which it could not recover and micro-transactions were disabled in the game.

Shortly afterwards, loot boxes were banned outright in both the Netherlands and Belgium. China has restricted the number of loot boxes players can open per day and Sweden is also investigating them.

Battle royale games like Fortnite and Apex Legends then began to use micro-transactions on a cosmetic basis. Apex Legends was developed by Respawn, which is owned by EA. During a recent event in Apex Legends, Respawn found itself under fire for the pricing of its in-game items and packs.

The stories of children racking up insane bills on their parents’ credit cards have never really dried up since they first began, with more and more people calling for an end to the practice.

MPs calling for age-verification tools in gaming

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into addictive and immersive technologies has churned up countless more of these stories.

Today, the BBC reported that MPs are calling for in-game spending to be regulated by gambling laws and loot boxes banned entirely for children.

Part of the DCMSC’s inquiry led to companies in the gaming world providing it with evidence, though MPs are accusing some of those representatives who provided evidence of a “lack of honesty and transparency”.

Jagex – the team behind the hugely popular RuneScape – admitted players could spend up to £1,000 a week or even £5,000 per month.

The MPs have determined that the industry is reluctant to accept responsibility and intervene when it is clear a person is spending above what would be considered a normal amount, or even give a concrete figure on how much is “too much”.

Damian Collins MP, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, is urging the games industry to utilise the large quantity of data the game developers and makers collect on their players and put it to effective use in helping identify which gamers are vulnerable.

The MP for Folkestone and Hythe is leading the calls for effective age-verification tools that would aid in preventing children from purchasing loot boxes and exposing them to early forms of gambling addiction.

“Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up,” he told the BBC.

“We challenge the government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the gambling act.”

The eGaming Desk has reached out to both EA and Respawn for a comment.

Interested in reading more about the obscene money in microtransactions? Discover more about how Pokémon Masters generated $26 million in revenue during its first week, mostly from microtransactions present in the mobile game.