UK government is investigating video games loot boxes

UK government is investigating video games loot boxes

The UK government has officially said that it will be calling for evidence that video game loot boxes are gambling.

This is part of its response to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport' (DCMS) select committee's report into immersive and addictive technologies. At the time, DCMS said that the government needed to look at legislation under the Gambling Act 2005 with regards to loot boxes. The department will be calling for evidence about the impact of loot boxes on spending within video games as well as gambling behaviour.

This follows word that DCMS was going to be gathering information over the weekend. The evidence that's submitted will be used to review the Gambling Act 2005. The UK Gambling Commission has said in the past that video game loot boxes do not constitute gambling

"During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen more people than ever before turn to video games and immersive technology to keep them entertained and to stay in touch with friends and family." Caroline Dinenage, the minister for Digital and Culture said.

"These innovations can present challenges though as well as opportunities, which is why we are taking the necessary steps to protect users and promote the safe enjoyment of this dynamic industry."

The government also says that it thinks the industry can do more to safeguard consumers, allowing them to place limits on in-game spending. UK video games trade body Ukie has been trying to educate parents with its Get Smart About PLAY campaign, which launched in January 2020.

"We’re pleased that the Government’s response to the DCMS Select Committee’s report highlights the importance of the games industry to the UK economy and the major steps taken by the sector since the report's publication," the CEO of Ukie Dr Jo Twist OBE said.

"The response shows the extensive action it has taken in regards to in-game monetisation. This includes measures such as our ongoing Get Smart About PLAY campaign to increase the use of family controls in the UK, the introduction of the ‘paid random item’ descriptor to the PEGI age rating system and commitment to publishing the probabilities of obtaining a paid randomised item in certain games on the major platforms.

"It also shows the work the industry has done to measure and increase its diversity, the role it has played in shaping global standards in esports and the important work around age-appropriate design.

"It’s positive that the Government recognises the need for robust independent research relating to games, particularly in regards to loot boxes, and we look forward to working constructively on it."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) added: "As the UK's competition and consumer authority, the CMA has its own concerns about the way online games sell microtransactions to people, and so welcomes this call for evidence from the Government. The CMA will share its extensive consumer protection and behavioural science expertise with DCMS to support its work and help make sure that online game players are being treated fairly."

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.