Wednesday, June 12, 2024

European Parliament votes to regulate in-game loot boxes

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Thanks to Parliament, the European Commission (EU) will be taking a more active stance against loot boxes in video games. GamesIndustry reports that the country’s government largely voted in favor of regulating the controversial in-game mechanic.

Various countries have tried to regulate loot boxes, if not remove them entirely, even as doing so is said to be not terribly effective. And if they haven’t tried to impose restrictions on the mechanic, they’ve put warnings on physical game boxes so parents can be aware of what games feature them.

After a report in December 2022 that called for stricter regulation, MEP Adriana Maldonado López led the charge on loot box regulation. The report called on the EU to work with game developers, publishers, and console makers to “help mitigate the risks of gaming disorders.”

“We need to harmonize EU rules, ensuring strengthened consumer protection and with a specific focus on minors,” she wrote. 

Part of the EU’s duty will be analyzing loot boxes’ impact on players and prompts for making purchases in-game. Parliament also told the EU to investigate if gold farming in games (earning large amounts of in-game money and selling that online) is linked to money laundering and forced labor. 

Lopez’s report features over a dozen recommendations, ranging from systems that help parents understand how much time and money their kids spend on games to subscription services being easy to cancel as they are to join. You can read her solutions for loot box regulation in full here.

A regulation reckoning is coming for the industry

Before Parliament’s vote, both the European Game Developers Federation and Interactive Software Federation of Europe gave a joint statement to GamesIndustry regarding game regulation. To them, the regulation that Lopez is recommending may result in developers not having the funds to keep themselves alive. 

“Our industry is committed to a fair and transparent consumer experience when playing videogames,” they wrote. “Regulators should guard the right to access these cultural products while keeping Europe’s high level of consumer protection.”

As Europe’s government is focusing on loot boxes, the US is turning its attention towards the players themselves. In December 2022, several Democratic senators asked the game industry for reports on how they deal with online extremism in game communities. 

Supremacist ideology in games such as Roblox, Minecraft, and Call of Duty games has risen for years now. As there’s growing concerns about the role social media warps its young users, Massachusetts congresswoman Lori Trahan said that games and their developers “must be a part of that conversation.”

In the draft from December, the four congresspeople (Trahan included) acknowledged that players have had positive experiences with games. At the same time, they wrote that games are “spaces where hate, harassment, and extremism can proliferate, and we are concerned about the total volume as well as the increase in player reports of these negative encounters.”

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