Loot boxes have long been a contentious topic of conversation in the gaming industry, and the UK government has warned companies that restrictive legislation may be enforced in the future if the culture surrounding these purchases doesn't change.
The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched an investigation into loot boxes in 2020, concluding with a comparison between these in-game purchases and gambling. Although no formal repercussions have come of this report, the UK government announced yesterday that it may introduce legislation.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries had this to say on the topic:
"We want to stop children going on spending sprees online without parental consent, spurred on by in-game purchases like loot-boxes.
"Games companies and platforms need to do more to ensure that controls and age-restrictions are applied so that players are protected from the risk of gambling harms. Children should be free to enjoy gaming safely, whilst giving parents and guardians the peace of mind they need."
The government's recommendations are dominantly focused on the role of parental permission in loot box purchases. This comes after Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft pledged to disclose loot box odds in 2019, though this information has seemingly not had the desired effect of deterring players from the risks of randomised item purchases — at least not sufficiently to appease the UK government.
A similar movement has taken place in both Germany and Belgium, with their respective governments' increasing concern over the dangers of loot box culture also linking the practice to gambling habits. Nintendo's free-to-play titles Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes are unavailable to download in Belgium as a result.
Although the full repercussions of the UK government's statement remain to be seen, it seems the industry will soon have little choice but to change its approach if it wishes to continue operating in certain territories.