New initiatives recently sent to the European Commission could lead to severe restrictions on loot boxes and other types of monetization. This applies in particular to games intended for minors.
The current state of the gaming industry is simply a voice crying in the wild: “How come almost every major game in the category Has AAA essentially become a mini-casino?” The European Parliament, the EU’s representative legislative body, has asked the European Commission to address a range of issues affecting the gaming industry and players in general. These include exploitative loot boxes, online gambling, subscriptions, and various protections (or lack thereof) for minors. The commission has a long list of issues to decide, including the possibility of expanding the law to more tightly regulate loot boxes. Particular attention should be paid to the protection of minors.
The possibility of anchoring the sectoral self-regulatory system of age marking PEGI in European legislation is also being considered. New labels for PEGI ratings can identify in-app purchases and promotional notifications. The recommendations are largely aimed at consumers, with the Commission also tasked with collecting data on average time and money spent on gambling, “social psychological impacts” and the ability to regulate online gambling for children. Some of the wording in the European Parliament’s initiatives is particularly harsh, linking the exploitation of in-game payments to financial crime and human rights abuses.
Opposition from gaming industry associations is a good sign that publishers and developers are taking this seriously and are unhappy with the possibility of monetization restrictions on games targeted at children. Any sweeping laws in the European Union are likely to cause changes in the global gambling market as publishers are forced to enforce specific restrictions on publications around the world.
It should be noted that loot boxes are no longer the most pressing issue right now. Unfortunately, the law is often slower than the technologies it regulates. Developers have largely transitioned to recurring payment Battle Pass systems that replace random rewards with predetermined goals. Countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have already made strides in regulating most in-game gambling monetization, leading to games like Overwatch moving to the Battle Pass system. Ultimately, however, it’s still difficult to say where this will lead – whether it gives users more control over their spending or increases the flow of money to game makers.