The United Kingdom’s Department of Digital Culture, Media, and Sport is soon launching a call for evidence to reclassify loot boxes in video games as gambling. This comes from a report by The Guardian, which states that the DCMS will likely launch this investigation later this week. Currently, in the UK, games with loot boxes are not considered gambling. This is mostly due to items in loot boxes not having a “monetary value”. But, with evidence – like loot box items being sold for real money online – that idea is being challenged. Therefore, the DCMS is calling for evidence to be put forward so they can make a final decision on if loot boxes should be considered gambling.
Loot Crate Gambling Issues
The fear of loot boxes reached a tipping point in 2017, with games like Star Wars: Battlefront II and Fifa 17 having loot box systems that paywalled gamers from better content via randomized loot boxes. The randomization and enticement for players to purchase these to improve in the game greatly parallels casino gambling. This began to worry parents of underage gamers, who began to spend unreasonable amounts of money in-game.
In another article by The Guardian, underage gamers admitted that when buying loot boxes, even they felt like they were gambling. And, despite usually not getting anything out of it, children chose to buy loot boxes anyways. Parents worry that by exposing kids to loot box buying grooms them for an adulthood of gambling addictions.
The DCMS told Gamesindustry.biz that the sudden call to action was partly due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. As people are spending more time at home, the UK government worries even more about kids purchasing loot boxes. They hope to get loot boxes reclassified as gambling, which would put certain games under gambling law. This would prevent underage gamers from purchasing games with loot box mechanics, or force developers to remove them altogether.