Loot Boxes Shouldn’t Be Sold To Minors, Must Allow Refunds, Say UK Publishers

The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (or UKIE for short) has published a new list of guidelines for loot boxes in video games on the UK government website. While not legally binding, the guidelines could result in government pushback if breached. Notably, the guidelines urge developers to restrict purchasing loot boxes for under 18-year-olds, make refunding more lenient, and disclose odds before purchasing.


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“We welcome that some platforms already require parental authorisation for spending by under-18s within games,” the government consultation blog post said (via GamesIndustry.biz). “As part of meeting this objective, games companies and platforms should take steps to strengthen and reduce reliance on self-declaration.”

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UKIE stated that research found “a correlation between loot box expenditure and problem gambling” across 15 studies, four of which sampled those aged 12 to 24. With arguments that loot boxes are akin to gambling and evidence that they may lead to gambling habits, the UKIE encourages developers to “restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a loot box, without the consent or knowledge of a parent, carer, or guardian”.

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In the case of minors purchasing loot boxes without parental consent, potentially using their credit/debit cards without permission–something that we see crop up in the news regularly–the UKIE says developers should “commit to lenient refund policies […] with clearly displayed contact routes for customer services.” This isn’t just a problem with loot boxes, but in-game microtransactions as a whole. Two years ago, a kid bought 50,000 V-Bucks with their mum’s credit card, while as recently as May, the BBC reported that a ten-year-old girl spent £2,500 on Roblox without her mother realising.

The guidelines also call on developers to “give clear probability disclosures”, meaning that loot boxes should list the likelihood of getting each item and the likelihood of earning something from each tier. For instance, if you were to open a case in CS:GO, under UKIE regulations–which again are not legally binding– Valve would be expected to list the probability of getting a knife or other high-value skin. This would highlight just how unlikely it is for you to get said items despite the number of crates you may purchase.

Speaking of CS:GO, a problem that crops up with loot boxes and rare items is the selling of said items through third-party sites. Knives acquired from cases are often sold for real money, leading to the development of notorious video game gambling sites. The UKIE stresses that developers should “continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from loot boxes for real money and continue to invest in IP protection to combat such sales.”

The 11-pointers given by the UKIE in regard to loot boxes went live today, so we’ll have to wait and see if it’ll have any meaningful impact going forward.

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