The UK trade association Ukie has collaborated with representatives of the video games industry to publish principles on the use of loot boxes. The 11 principles are intended as a set of guidelines for the video games industry to self-regulate the availability of loot boxes in games. Loot boxes have increasingly become more controversial and are debated to be a form of gambling causing various countries around the world to consider different types of legislation banning them. From Germany to the Netherlands, the UK to the United States, there have been inquiries into the industry’s use of loot boxes by regulatory bodies looking into the possibility of banning them.
Meanwhile Ukie has been working on the following principles as a means to ensure responsible usage of loot boxes while protecting children and adults.
Ukie Co-CEO Daniel Wood said:
“Publishing these shared Principles for how the industry approaches loot boxes is a UK first and provides us with a clear direction moving forwards. The Principles will improve protections for all players and underlines the industry’s commitment to safe and responsible play. We look forward to working collaboratively across industry and with others to implement them over the coming months.”
While these principles from the UK trade association Ukie aim to give a structured framework for the video games industry to oversee itself it does not forgo the possibility of greater intervention by government entities. UK Minister for the Creative Industries John Whittingdale expressed support for principles but also indicated that the industry will be monitored for its progress in adopting them.
Minister for the Creative Industries John Whittingdale said:
“We’ve been clear the video games industry needs to do more to protect children and adults from the harms associated with loot boxes. These new principles are a big step forward to make sure players can enjoy video games responsibly and safely. I look forward to seeing games companies put the plans into action and will be watching their progress closely.”
Ukie has said that a “£1 million, three-year public information campaign” will begin this summer to raise awareness on how to use player and parental controls, key points in the principles. The campaign will also address online interactions, screen times, and the accessibility of age-appropriate content.
The Industry Principles and guidance on paid loot boxes (per Ukie):
- “Make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a Loot Box, without the consent or knowledge of a parent, carer or guardian.
- Drive awareness of and uptake of technological controls with all players, parents, carers and guardians through regular communications, starting with a targeted public information campaign launching in July.
- Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry. The group will meet regularly to develop and share best practices, stay apprised of technological developments and explore opportunities to develop improved systems, engaging with relevant regulators and policymakers where necessary as well as consulting with players, parents and caregivers and third-party organisations.
- Disclose the presence of Loot Boxes prior to purchase and download of a game so that players can make informed choices.
- Give clear probability disclosures, making sure that players can easily access clear and simple information on the probability that they will receive given virtual items or categories of virtual items or other elements in a Loot Box before they acquire or open it. Players should also be informed if their data is used to influence gameplay experiences with Paid Loot Boxes, and given relevant details.
- Design and present Loot Boxes in a manner that is easily understandable to players, and which promotes fair and responsible play.
- Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework, to facilitate the creation of better quality, data driven research into video games that adheres to the principles of open science while respecting data privacy and confidentiality.
- Continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from Loot Boxes for real money and continue to invest in IP protection to combat such sales.
- Commit to lenient refund policies on directly purchased Loot Boxes or purchased in-game currency used to acquire Loot Boxes where spending has occurred without parental consent or knowledge, with clearly displayed contact routes for customer services.
- Advance protections for all players. Members of the working group are committed to providing all players with information about how to play responsibly and manage their spending effectively on Loot Boxes. The group will continue to engage with third party organisations, players, parents, and academia to benefit from their learnings and experience including any new research developed through the Video Games Research Framework.
- Work with UK Government and other relevant stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of these principles following a suitable implementation period of 12 months. Members of the working group commit to a periodic review of these measures following their implementation alongside the UK Government in order to assess these measures, assess the effectiveness of public information campaigns and take into account further technological innovation in the sector.“