As you will have been reading in the press, there has been a government report suggesting that Loot Boxes should be banned. This comes as one of the suggestions in the DCMS Immersive and Addictive Technologies report.
Loot Boxes are one way that video games sell items to players. They are a subset of more general in-app purchases that provide guns, outfits and skills to players. Any game that includes in-app purchases discloses this at the point of sale. Where games are PEGI rated they will display the In-App Purchase descriptor.
Loot Boxes are different to other in-app purchases because rather than buying an item, you are buying a mystery pack that will contain unknown items. Some of these items might be rare and have more virtual value while others are less rare and so worth less in the game.
Although not identical, the system is a little like the Pannini Football Stickers or LEGO Minifigures that you buy without knowing which you will be getting. Of course, in a game, these virtual purchases are less visible to parents.
Currently, Gambling law doesn’t designate Loot Boxes as gambling because the prizes have no monetary value. The report suggests the following for Loot Boxes:
This would be a change to gambling law so these Loot Boxes fall under the legislation as a special case of some sort. It’s unlikely that blind bag toys and stickers would be grouped along with these virtual items.
If you are a parent concerned about in-app purchases the first thing to do is to check you have set-up passwords on any cards association with games consoles or smartphone devices. This ensures children need to ask before spending money. You can also set up Parental Controls to restrict whether they can interact with games in this way.
Spending some time playing games with your child is also important. This not only enables you to understand why they enjoy it but how the virtual items they want to buy may enhance (or not) the game.
This enables you to have a conversation with your child about the value of a particular purchase and together make an informed decision. As with other kinds of advertising, this enables parents and carers to highlight how games make money, and how advertisement or incentives in games make these items look good before purchase.
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