The Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) is launching an official investigation into whether or not they should classify loot boxes as a form of gambling. There are concerns that the microtransactions are training kids to gamble and potentially become addicts in the future. So DCMS is launching a call for evidence into the impact of loot boxes on in-game spending and gambling-like behaviour over the next year.
The video game sector is a huge part of the UK’s creative industries, bringing in an impressive £2.6 billion in 2018 and is growing every day. This is all the more relevant at the moment with many people turning to video games for entertainment during lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This means developers will be raking in masses of money at the moment but a £60 game won't be their main source of income but the overabundance of in-game purchases, microtransactions. Yeah, I am looking at you most of all EA.
Most of these microtransactions aren’t more than a mild annoyance as you know what you are getting into (for example buying a specific cosmetic item) but things like a loot box where you have no clue what you get can ruin the game, and your bank account. This is the reason why the government is taking steps to check the ethicality of such game mechanics, especially when the game is marketed as playable for all ages like the FIFA franchise. The negative influences features like loot boxes could have on younger consumers are clear, and I for one am glad the government is taking steps to deal with it.
And I am sure I am not alone when I say that if loot boxes are removed or not available for purchase in the future, no one will mourn them. They are widely regarded as one of the worst aspects of video games, especially when they give features that improve gameplay. The most recent and egregious example of this is the 2017 disaster known as Star Wars: Battlefront II from EA (Surprised? I’m not). The game failed at launch due to EA covering the game from head to toe in microtransactions that gave a massively unfair advantage to people who invested money into the loot boxes. Thankfully the game has come a long way since that time toning down microtransactions and using the loot boxes only for cosmetic reasons and as a result, the game has boomed in popularity.
It’s clear that the time of the tyrant is up. Pack your bags loot boxes.