The existence of gambling mechanics in video games might be under threat in Great Britain, as a parliamentary committee has advised the UK government to ban the sales of loot boxes to children and to have them regulated under gambling laws. The inclusion of loot boxes in video games has been a major topic in the industry over the past few years and there have been calls to have them regulated or banned altogether, despite the attempts by EA rebrand them as "surprise mechanics."
The game that started the initial mainstream backlash against loot boxes was Star Wars Battlefront II, which tied in-game advantages to loot boxes, as well as making it much more difficult for players to unlock the most popular characters for the franchise if they weren't willing to pay real money. There have been attempts to ban loot boxes in the US over the past year and different government bodies across the world are currently investigating the potentially harmful effects that gambling mechanics can have on players, especially in titles that are aimed at children.
The issue of loot boxes being connected to gambling has already been investigated by one watchdog group in the UK in regards to the FIFA series, who claimed that the loot boxes in FIFA were not considered gambling, but a new parliamentary committee is taking a very different stance. According to GamesIndustry.biz, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published a document recommending to the UK government that loot boxes should be banned from being sold to children and that they should fall under gambling laws.
The DCMS Committee spent nine months interviewing members of the industry and claimed that there had been a "lack of honesty and transparency" from representatives of social media and gaming companies. The DCMS Committee published an eighty-four-page document outlining the potential harmful issues that can be caused by unregulated gambling mechanics and has asked the government to publish a paper outlining why loot boxes are exempt from the current gambling laws. The document also advises that the government should advise the Pan European Game Information rating system be modified to use the gambling content label on titles with loot boxes.
There have been attempts within the video game industry to try and self-regulate loot boxes over the past year, as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony will disclose drop rates in the loot boxes that appear in games on their systems. It feels that the steps towards self-regulation are too little, too late, especially when sports games are looking like digital casinos in their trailers. It remains to be seen whether the UK government will act on the data presented by the DCMS Committee, but if it does, then one of the major gaming markets will be cracking down on gambling mechanics in games. Loots boxes have already been banned in countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, so it's possible that the UK will follow suit.