UK games industry reveals plans to limit children’s access to loot boxes cover image

UK games industry reveals plans to limit children’s access to loot boxes

The Ukie, a trade association for the UK’s games industry, has today laid down 11 principles for restricting the access of loot boxes to kids.

UK games developers have today (July 18) unveiled plans to limit and restrict the access of in-game loot boxes to children. As posted on their website, Ukie, a governing body for games companies, says it plans to introduce 11 new guidelines and principles to “underline the industry’s commitment to safe and responsible play.”

These principles include plans to include:

  • Technological controls (parental locks).
  • More clarity in loot box probabilities and features in games.
  • The inclusion of loot boxes in games to be clearly labelled.
  • Support into research into the effects of loot boxes.
  • More protections for all players.
  • A commitment to lenient refund policies.

These principles will be self-regulated, although will reportedly be measured in their effectiveness by the UK Government.

Long overdue restrictions

(Image via EA)
(Image via EA)

The new initiative comes a year to the day since the release of the document by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport responding to evidence given on loot boxes in video games. That document, the result of almost three years of research, strongly condemned all forms of loot boxes, stating that “purchases of loot boxes should be unavailable to all children and young people unless and until they are enabled by a parent or guardian.”

It also suggested that spending controls should be placed on all loot boxes, and research into loot boxes should be increased. Ultimately, none of the investigation’s advice on loot boxes was put into law, but the principles agreed by Ukie does enshrine the suggestion for improved industry-led productions.

Are the days of loot boxes limited in the UK?

(Image via Activision Blizzard)
(Image via Activision Blizzard)

Loot boxes are often seen as one of the most destructive and dangerous parts of the current gaming landscape, being equated to online gambling. Some loot boxes have been accused of being pay-to-win, and British papers are filled with stories of children overspending with in-game purchases. The problem has gone so far as to lead to the ban of loot boxes in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands. 

The UK has stopped short of following its Benelux neighbors across the Channel with a ban, instead opting for self-regulation by the games industry. It’s a common line with the current UK establishment to allow industries to self-regulate.

Unfortunately, similar self-regulating industries in the UK have caused scandals with their decision-making. For example, there's on-going energy price crisis, or the water companies’ failure to invest in adequate sewage treatment. As a result, any skepticism over the games industry’s suitability to regulate itself is merited.

Still, the move does seem like a genuine attempt by Ukie to stimy the flow of dangerous monetization methods into games. The guidelines promise to “Work with [the] UK Government and… stakeholders,” which falls somewhat far from anything close to a law, but is a start. Hopefully, the UK games industry as a whole can adhere to these principles.

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