The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) parliamentary committee has said that video game loot boxes are gambling. The commission also suggested that the notorious industry practice should be banned for games that are available to children.
In its report, the DCMS wrote that “UK Government advises PEGI to apply the existing ‘gambling’ content labeling, and corresponding age limits, to games containing loot boxes that can be purchased for real-world money and do not reveal their contents before purchase.” The committee contested the idea that video game loot boxes do provide players with their “money’s worth” as some players do value their contents with some embedded items to be traded for real money. So, saying that they don’t offer their money’s worth is “arguably out-of-step with the digital economies in the games industry.”
The authority added:
“We recommend that loot boxes that contain the element of chance should not be sold to children playing games, and instead in-game credits should be earned through rewards won through playing the games.”
The report could have a huge effect on the revenues of publishers such as EA, Ubisoft, Activision and Epic Games. EA’s football series, FIFA, makes more money from its FIFA Ultimate Team where it sells loot box style card packs than it does from sales of the game. EA has had to change the game in regions such as Belgium, where loot boxes were classed as gambling, but having to change the series in the UK which is one of FIFA’s biggest markets could potentially lose hundreds of millions of dollars for the publisher.
Fortnite’s battle royale mode, which is the most popular part of the game, doesn’t sell loot boxes. However, its Save The World mode sells loot llamas which are loot boxes in a pinata form. Any changes to that could also lead to millions less in revenue for Epic Games. Activision’s Overwatch, the Call of Duty series, and Ubisoft sells loot boxes in series like Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon. It’s unclear when UK legislation may come into effect, but it’s likely to completely change the way that video games are released and developed in the region.