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18 countries back report calling for loot box regulations

Document dubs the practice "exploitative," shares proposals on how the industry can improve in-game transactions

The Norwegian Consumer Council has released a new report on the ongoing impact of loot boxes on the games industry, backed by 20 consumer groups in 18 European countries.

The report gives an outline of the history of monetisation in games, and how practices around loot boxes and in-game currency have evolved to "exploit consumers."

It highlights "deceptive design" in games, tricks that "exploit cognitive or behavioural biases to incentivise spending." Loot boxes are also frequently marketed aggressively by "advertising the possible rewards," which is also considered deceptive by the report.

Two case studies of particularly predatory practices are also included in the document -- it details how loot boxes are implemented in FIFA 22 and Raid: Shadow Legends, and the problems it presents.

The report rounds up by listing several actions that the industry and its regulators can take to improve the landscape around loot boxes. This includes:

  • Banning the aforementioned "deceptive design"
  • Denoting all in-game purchases in real-world currency
  • Not implementing loot boxes in games aimed at minors
  • More transparency around algorithms that determine the outcome of a purchase
  • More enforcement around consumer rights in games

It adds that if these remedies do not alleviate the issues, the industry should consider a ban of paid loot boxes in games altogether.

Conversations around loot boxes and legality have been ongoing. In 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission ruled that the implementation of them in games breached multiple gambling laws in the country.

That same year, EA found itself embroiled in a four-year long discussion on whether FIFA's card packs should be seen as gambling under Dutch legislation. In the end it was decided that loot boxes are not subject to gambling laws if they follow a certain criteria.

Since then, handfuls of publishers including Nintendo, Blizzard, and Konami have stopped sales of loot boxes in Belgium, as well as other territories that no longer permit it under law.

Last year, a UK report also dubbed loot boxes "structurally and psychologically akin to gambling," and called for new policies to be put in place, including a clear definition of what a loot box is, full disclosure of the odds when purchasing them, and spending limits.

The UK government also called for evidence on loot boxes ahead of a potential review of gambling laws in the country, the results of which should be revealed later this year.

A similar proposal was put forward in Australia in 2021, that would see loot boxes banned from games targeted at children.

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