The British games industry trade association UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) has published guidelines on the provision of loot boxes, recommending an age restriction for loot boxes to those over 18 years of age.
Ukie’s guidelines are the result of the Technical Working Group. This was set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in July 2022.
The group was formed in response to the government publishing the results of a call for evidence on loot boxes launched in September 2020.
This was called because there were concerns that young people using loot boxes in video games were effectively underage. Loot boxes often require real money to unlock in-game features or tools.
Therefore, Ukie guidelines recommend that loot boxes are not accessible to young people at all unless approved by a parent or guardian.
“The publication of these common principles for how the industry deals with loot boxes is a first in the UK and gives us clear direction for the future,” said Daniel Wood, co-CEO of Ukie. “The principles will improve the protection of all players and underline the industry’s commitment to safe and responsible gaming.
“We look forward to working across industries and with others to implement them in the coming months.”
In a statement released today (July 18), DCMS said it welcomed these developments. She hopes this will strengthen player protection measures – especially with regard to young people.
“The Government welcomes these guidelines which, if fully implemented, have the potential to improve player protection in line with the objectives set out in the Government’s response,” DCMS said.
The proposed guidelines
In total, Ukie has presented 11 guidelines for the use of loot boxes. It is recommended that technical controls be implemented to prevent under-18s from using loot boxes. To bypass these technical controls, parental consent would be required.
This must also be accompanied by raising awareness of these technological controls.
DCMS specifically praised this recommendation on parental consent and called on the entire industry to tighten its parental controls rules.
“We welcome the clear commitment in the new industry guidelines to use technical controls to prevent anyone under the age of 18 from purchasing a paid loot box without the consent or knowledge of a parent or guardian,” DCMS continued.
“As part of the implementation of this guidance, we are calling on the industry to strengthen and monitor the roll-out of parental controls and ensure that the current best practice of standard £0 spending limits on child accounts is widespread, across both loot boxes and others In-game accounts apply. “Purchases.”
Keep players updated
Additionally, Ukie’s policies suggest that the presence of loot boxes in a game must be disclosed prior to purchase or download. In this way the player can be fully informed.
While recommendations like these are not surprising, Ukie also suggests a number of more unexpected measures.
This includes forming an expert panel on age security in the gaming industry and committing to more lenient refund policies for loot box purchases made without the knowledge of a parent or guardian.
Regarding the lenient refund policy, DCMS said it was an important “safeguard” to prevent financial harm from occurring.
“We recognize that despite these improvements, parental controls and parental controls may not always prevent children from purchasing Loot Boxes without prior parental consent,” the statement continued. “Refunds are therefore an important backstop to further reduce the risk of financial damage that can be associated with loot boxes.”
Similar steps elsewhere
Loot boxes have long been a criticized aspect of gambling. In July 2022 – the day after the results of the call for evidence were published – Dame Rachel de Souza, the UK Children’s Commissioner, deemed loot boxes “inappropriate”.
She called on video game developers to address the impact that unregulated access to loot boxes could have on young people.
Also in July 2022, the Spanish Ministry of Consumer Affairs published a draft law aimed at regulating loot boxes. At the time, Spain was considered the first country in the EU to specifically regulate loot boxes.
This process dates back to February 2021, when the Spanish regulator Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) opened a consultation on how loot boxes should be regulated.
Meanwhile, from January 1, 2023, the German age rating authority Entertainment Software Self-Control began considering whether loot boxes should be included in its age rating system.