A report backed by 18 countries asks that loot boxes either face stricter regulations or be banned altogether.
Despite their widespread use, loot boxes remain a highly controversial element of modern video game design. To the point where simply not having them is considered a selling point and worthy of praise.
There have been efforts to recognise them as a form of gambling here in the UK and some countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have outright banned them. Recently, this led to Activision cancelling the release of Diablo Immortal in those countries, so as not to break any laws.
It may be an old topic, but critics aren’t going anywhere. In fact, 18 European countries have backed a report which accuses the gaming industry of exploiting and manipulating consumers with loot boxes.
In particular, it singles out EA’s FIFA 22 and its Ultimate Team mode (where players can purchase packs to obtain new players to form their own team) and mobile game Raid: Shadow Legends (where new characters can be randomly obtained by spending virtual currency).
Most of the arguments the report makes aren’t new, as it highlights how these types of game take advantage of FOMO (fear of missing out) and psychologically manipulate players into spending more money to obtain especially rare items and character.
One example it gives is the Team of the Year Kylian Mbappe card in FIFA 22. The report believes that, with the probability of getting one from a Jumbo Rare Player pack being only 0.11%, a player would, on average, have to buy 847 of them to get it.
That’s 1.7 million FIFA points, which comes to roughly €13,500 (just under £11,500). We don’t need to explain why that’s an obscene amount of money for just one card.
It even cites the leaked EA documents that admit to deliberately designing the FIFA games to push players into spending money on the loot boxes.
The report, authored by the Norwegian Consumer Council can be read here (as shared by PCGamesN), and concludes that the industry has avoided scrutiny for so long ‘because of the prevailing business models being technically complex or somewhat novel or because video games are still considered a niche entertainment market by many authorities.’
It offers multiple proposals for dealing with them, such as providing real-world values for in-game currencies, banning companies from using deceptive design practices, or outright banning loot boxes altogether.
‘Although the video games industry is amongst the largest entertainment industries, it has often eluded serious regulatory oversight,’ reads the report.
‘Therefore, we call for stronger regulatory action against video game companies that fail to respect consumer rights and that prey on consumer vulnerabilities.’
Unfortunately, the industry is eager to leave loot boxes untouched. Companies like EA have issued multiple defences (like the infamous Kinder Egg comparison) as they remain far too lucrative to give up willingly.
As much as people complain about them, loot boxes make too much money. Last year, FIFA 21’s loot boxes generated more than £1 billion in revenue.
With 18 countries backing this report, though, we could see more widespread bans across the Europe in the coming years if the industry doesn’t start regulating itself.
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