Earlier this week the UK's Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued a report recommending that loot boxes in videogames be subject to the same regulations as gambling, which would include content labels on games with paid loot boxes and a ban on selling them to minors. The chair of the committee responsible for the report also criticized the position that loot boxes are not a form of gambling, and said that if it wants to maintain that position it should release a report explaining why.
Ukie, the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, put on a happy face in response to the report, saying that it is "pleased the Committee acknowledges that the majority of people play video games in a positive, safe and responsible way," and emphasizing its support for efforts to increase "digital literacy."
"We also welcome the Committee’s recognition of good practice, which already exists in the industry, including pioneering community management and technical measures which ensure players have a safe experience online," it said in a statement. "The discussion around age ratings is actively ongoing and the system is continually reviewed. Changes have already been made including the introduction of an in-game purchase description label and as technology evolves so will the robust process by which it is reviewed and rated."
The reaction on the North American side of the pond was somewhat more confrontational, however. "We take seriously the issues raised in the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, but strongly disagree with its findings," an Entertainment Software Association representative told GamesIndustry.biz.
"As demonstrated by the recent announcement of policies regarding the disclosure of the relative rarity or probability of obtaining virtual items in paid loot boxes as well as the robust parental controls that empower parents to control in-game purchases, the videogame industry is a leader in partnering with parents and players to create enjoyable videogame experiences. In addition, numerous regulatory bodies around the world, including those in Australia, France, Ireland, Germany, and the UK, have come to a conclusion starkly different than that of this committee."
Some countries have determined that loot boxes do not qualify as a form of gambling, but have also indicated that the decisions were based strictly on legal definitions and should not be taken to mean that loot boxes should be left unregulated. France's ARJEL regulatory body, for instance, determined that loot boxes do not legally qualify as gambling but "are undermining public policy goals for gambling," while the UK Gambling Commission said that there are "significant concerns" about games with loot boxes being played by children, but that they do not technically qualify as a form of gambling under current laws.
The ESA represents major publishers, such as Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Take-Two, and Tencent, and thus has a vested interest in avoiding regulation. It's always going to disagree with findings that could lead to legislation that limits monetization practices, though in this case it's done so a bit more forcefully than Ukie.
Correction: The headline originally stated that the ESA disagreed with a "committee's" findings on loot boxes, but a representative clarified that it was in fact a Select Committee of the House of Commons, made up of MPs of all parties, which "shadows" the work of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but is independent of it and not actually part of the government.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.