Ahead of its forthcoming review of the Gambling Act 2005 and as foreshadowed in June 2020, the UK Government has launched a call for evidence (that you can download below) on the impact of loot boxes in video games, to examine concerns that they may encourage or lead to problem gambling.
Its accompanying DCMS press release states as follows:
Loot boxes are in-game containers purchased with either virtual or real-world currency that awards players with randomized virtual items. They can use these items to improve their playing experience or for cosmetic upgrades to their character’s appearance.
Players do not know which item they will get until after they have opened the loot box and this chance element has raised concerns they could encourage gambling-like behaviour, particularly among young people.
With people spending increasing amounts of time online and as the industry, gaming habits, and the technology that supports it continues to evolve, the open call for evidence will help us understand people’s positive and negative experiences of loot boxes in video games.
It will seek the experiences of players and their parents or guardians as well as rigorous, high quality data and research from video games companies, academia, civil society as well as any other organisations with an interest in this issue.
The findings will give the government a clearer understanding of the size of the loot box and in-game purchases market in the UK, how it operates, and the impact of current protections such as parental controls and consumer regulations.
The government stands ready to take action should the outcomes of the call for evidence support taking a new approach to ensure users, and particularly young people, are better protected. Loot boxes will be considered alongside a review of the Gambling Act.
Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said:
“Our valued video game industry is making good progress developing safer environments for our children to play in, such as parental controls that can be set to schedule and limit playtime. But we’ve listened to parents’ concerns about loot boxes and it’s right that we fully examine and understand any evidence of the harm or links to problem gambling they can cause, so we can decide if action is needed.”
Video games are played by over half of the population and the sector is a key part of the UK’s world-leading creative industries. It contributed £2.6 billion to the economy in 2018, employed 27,000 people in 2019 and has grown more than 16 times faster than the wider UK economy since 2010.
The government will also undertake further research into the wider impact of video games on behaviour. DCMS will set a framework for a programme of research informed by workshops with academia and industry.
The government is taking these steps to address issues highlighted by the DCMS Select Committee’s report on Immersive and Addictive Technologies and to protect audiences across the UK.
The call for evidence will be open until November 22 2020.
The background to the call for evidence and details of those to whom it is principally targeted are summarised by DCMS – under the heading “Consultation description” – as follows:
On 8 June 2020 the government’s response to the DCMS Select Committee Immersive and Addictive Technologies Inquiry announced that the government will launch a call for evidence to gather evidence and understand the impact of loot boxes. This followed a commitment made by the government to review the Gambling Act 2005 with a particular focus on tackling issues around online loot boxes.
This call for evidence is targeted at two groups with separate questions for each group:
- Video games players and adults responsible for children and young people who play video games, through the Loot Box Call for Evidence – Player Experience Questions Survey. Alternatively, a feedback form can be downloaded from this page. Further details on how to respond are included in the Loot Box Call for Evidence document accessible on this page.
- Video games businesses, and researchers and organisations interested in video games and loot boxes – Questions and details on how to respond are included in the Loot Box Call for Evidence document accessible on this page.
Welsh language versions of the call for evidence document and the Loot Box Call for Evidence – Player Experience Questions feedback form are also available on this page.
The Player Experience Questions (a pdf of which you can also download below) are aimed at people aged 16+ who play video games, and adults with responsibility for children or young people who play video games.
Those wishing to respond to the call for evidence may:
- respond online or
- complete a response form and either
- email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or
- write to Video Games Team, Media and Creative Industries Directorate, DCMS, 4th Floor, 100 Parliament Street, Westminster, London, SW1A 2BQ
In terms of further information that might assist those with an interest in this subject, you can read our following loot box related postings:
- November 2017: Do “loot boxes” in online games constitute gambling?
- November 2017: Loot boxes in video games and bingo in retirement & care homes
- December 2017: Loot boxes – gambling or not gambling?
- September 2018: Gambling regulators voice concerns about skins gambling and loot boxes in video games
- December 2018: Parliamentary inquiry into links between gaming & gambling, loot boxes and eSports
- February 2019: Briefing papers published on FOBTs and loot boxes
- July 2019: Gambling Commission evidence to Immersive and Addictive Technologies Inquiry
- September 2019: Call for loot boxes to be regulated as gambling products
- October 2019: Children’s Commissioner calls for loot boxes to be classified as gambling
- December 2019: Review of Gambling Act 2005 confirmed in today’s Queen’s Speech background briefing notes
- December 2019: Gambling Act review will target credit cards and loot boxes
- December 2019: RSPH report sets the scene for the Government’s forthcoming focus on loot boxes
- June 2020: Call for evidence on loot boxes and ministerial roundtable on Esports best practice
1. On 21 July 2021, Caroline Dinenage (Minister of State for Digital and Culture) made the following Statement:
I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to the loot box call for evidence. The call for evidence received over 30,000 responses which clearly reflects the immense amount of interest in the issue.
The Government takes concerns about potential harms relating to loot boxes in video games seriously. That is why we are continuing to thoroughly evaluate the evidence received to determine solutions that are both robust and proportionate in response to the issues identified from the evidence received. This will be set out in the government response which will be published in the coming months.
Ensuring that video game players are protected is also a responsibility that the Government shares jointly with the games industry. In recent months, we have continued to engage heavily with many in the industry about loot box concerns to determine the most effective solutions to issues identified from the evidence. This includes holding a ministerial roundtable with a number of games companies. Following the call for evidence we commissioned an external rapid evidence review and we are evaluating the findings of this alongside the evidence received from responses.
2. On 2 August 2021, the House of Commons Library published a Research Briefing Paper entitled ‘Loot boxes in video games’ that you can download below.