Loot boxes should be regulated under gambling laws, according to a House of Lords Gambling Committee review.
The committee’s chairman, Lord Grade, told the BBC that the “overwhelming majority” of the report’s recommendations could be implemented from today, as they do not require legislation.
Other countries have already taken action against the presence of loot boxes in gaming; Belgium’s Gambling Commission began a review of the practice in 2017 and eventually banned their use in games completely the following year, while the Netherlands deemed loot boxes that contained transferable items illegal.
Dr Zendle, a Media Effects Researcher who provided written evidence for the report, suggests loot box spending could be linked to problem gambling in both adults and adolescents:
“It may be the case that these things are linked because spending on loot boxes causes problem gambling. This is a credible explanation because loot boxes are very similar in many ways to gambling, and therefore may provide a gateway to it.”
He also backed the committee’s proposal to intervene with how the gaming industry in the UK has been handling the loot box issue:
“The ideal thing to have happened would have been industry self-regulation. It would have been some sort of big commitment from the video games industry to find out what is happening and do something about it. That has not happened. Therefore, I am not against the proposals… that some form of regulation external to the games industry is necessary.”
Loot Boxes have long been a controversial subject in games, but the issue came to a head in 2017 with the release of Star Wars Battlefront II, with many fans outraged at the perceived ‘pay-to-win’ nature of the game’s progression system and the locking of certain characters and content behind paywalls.
Such was the ire of the gaming community - and even a US politician, who labelled the game “a Star Wars-themed casino” at the time - that publisher EA had to revamp the game’s progression system following the huge backlash.
Some studios have already begun moving away from their use – including EA with the recently announced Star Wars Squadrons - with many publishers instead introducing paid seasonal battle pass systems in their stead, but it remains to be seen how the industry’s biggest players will react.
Will this report mark the end of loot boxes in the UK? Let us know your thoughts below.