Germany May Ban Sales of Games with Loot Boxes to Minors

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Minors in Germany may no longer be able to purchase games with loot boxes in the future. The potential restriction was brought to attention by Game World Observer today, which spotted a story from local news outlet Der Spiegel about how the German government was planning a reform of its decades-old Youth Protection Act that could include a revision to classify games with gambling-like mechanisms in the 18 and over category. This would effectively prevent minors from buying any games with loot boxes if passed.

“This could have far-reaching consequences for video game developers,” Der Spiegel explained. “Because with the reform, the so-called loot boxes are in the sights of youth activists, i.e. paid content in games that unlock virtual clothing, weapons and equipment, for example. The law speaks of ‘risks from gambling-like mechanisms.’ Such purchase options could therefore be classified in such a way that they impair the development of children and adolescents – and thus affect the age rating.”

“Online games or other applications that use loot boxes or similar in-game offers would probably be classified with an age rating of 18 and over,” according to lawyer Julia Maris. “We want clear symbols that indicate risks such as violence or cost traps,” Social Democratic Party Family Minister Franziska Giffey added.

Some of the games that could be affected by this potential change in German law include EA’s popular FIFA series, which thrive on loot box mechanics and generate lots of additional revenue for the publishing giant. As part of FIFA’s “Ultimate Team” collection mode, players are encouraged to spend money on FIFA Points to purchase packs that grant better-performing virtual soccer players. The feature has been criticized by some as a pay-to-win scheme.

Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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