Today the European Parliament has taken a significant step towards regulating the loot box system in video games, voting to adopt a tighter squeeze. The vote, which called for more regulation in this regard, ended with 577 votes in favour, 56 against and 15 abstentions.
Loot boxes are, for those unfamiliar with the gaming world, a system that allows the player to purchase unopened packs containing in-game items with real money, through microtransactions. These objects generally consist of upgrades or other items that allow you to obtain in-game advantages. An example, just to name one, are the FUT packs in FIFA video games.
The loot box system has long been criticized as it is believed to be addictive. Not only that: today’s European Parliament report also raises concerns about recycling practices deriving from the private sale of loot boxes. This specific case therefore refers to economic transactions outside the official video game stores.
European Parliament: close arrival on video game loot boxes
Led by MEP Adriana Maldonado Lopez, the commission has called on the EU to recognize and take steps to act on the many critical issues related to this system. López also asked to investigate its potential connection with “financial crimes and human rights violations and to present appropriate initiatives if necessary”. Also in this case we refer to the private exploitation of the loot boxes, and not to the official stores of the individual video games.
According to the Parliament, the EU should work actively with developers, publishers and gaming platforms in the future “help mitigate the risks of gambling disorders”. It also refers to the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) of label “gambling disorder” as a form of addiction. However, WHO said it would be “challenging if not impossible” to document such a circumstance.
Continuing, the report calls on the EU to invite game developers to “avoid manipulative game design that can lead to gaming addiction, isolation, and cyber harassment.” The document states that some in-game microtransactions are “manipulative and designed to exploit”. As a result, the report calls for “more transparency from game developers about how loot boxes work.” Underlying this point is the question that, as mentioned, players buy packs but don’t know what’s inside them. Valuable and low value items are randomly awarded, causing the player to compulsively buy packs in hopes of a “better item”.
Despite these accusations, in the document the European Parliament recognized video games as “works of art with cultural value”. He also proposed an annual prize for video games, to be awarded by the European Parliament in Brussels. Finally, the report states that video games can be important for education and to help develop critical thinking and creativity.