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ASA rulings uphold two claims concerning video game loot box disclosures

Posted on 23 November 2023

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently upheld two complaints in relation to the use, and disclosure of the presence, of loot boxes in video games.


In its guidance on advertising in-game purchases from 2021, the ASA defines 'random-item purchasing' (aka 'loot boxes'), as "in-game purchases containing an element of chance, in which the consumer does not know what they will receive until the transaction is completed". The guidance further suggests that the disclosure of the presence of in-game purchases, especially random-item purchases/loot boxes, may be material to a consumer's decision whether or not to purchase or download a game – particularly for more vulnerable consumers. For this reason, the Committee of Advertising Practice's UK Code for Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) requires that the presence of in-game loot boxes (or comparable mechanics that permit transactions containing randomised elements) be disclosed in all advertising materials including app store listings.

This disclosure requirement was also included as one of the 11 principles devised by representatives of the videogame industry (including the sector's trade body, UKIE) in its advisory, UK video games industry principles and guidance on Paid Loot Boxes. See here for our article on this development. This non-binding guidance was devised in response to the UK Government's call for the videogame industry to pursue "enhanced industry-led measures to deliver protections for children and young people and all players [on loot boxes]…[and] deliver tangible progress, improving at pace protections for children and young people and all consumers" in July 2022 (see here).

The Rulings

In two separate rulings, the ASA upheld that Hutch Games' adverts for two games, F1 Clash: Car Racing Manager and Rebel Racing on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, respectively, were misleading and in breach of rules 3.1 and 3.3 of the CAP Code as they did not disclose the presence of (paid-for) loot boxes in each game.

In both of the free-to-play titles, players could obtain loot boxes by purchasing them directly with real money, or with an in-game currency that could itself be purchased or earned by players for free through gameplay. Although the games' descriptions clearly stated that they contained in-game purchases, they did not specify the exact nature of these purchases and, critically, whether they included loot boxes. In its response to the ASA, Hutch Games argued that because players were able to progress through the games without spending money, these disclosures were not material to a player's decision whether or not to download the game and were therefore unnecessary. Hutch also referred to a section of the ASA's guidance on advertising in-game purchases which stated that if players were able to earn virtual currencies in-game (irrespective as to whether they could also be purchased), the game's in-game storefront and any subsequent in-game inducement to purchase items would not constitute 'advertising' under the CAP Code.

In its ruling, the ASA clarified that the extract referenced by Hutch Games only applied to first-party in-game storefronts and inducements to purchase items within a game, whereas product listings on third-party storefronts and app stores, such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, are within the scope of the CAP Code, regardless of whether any virtual currency could be earned in the game. The ASA noted that the games' listings on such storefronts did not provide any further information on the nature of those in-app purchases or whether it was possible to purchase loot boxes in the game. As a result, the ASA held that the adverts were misleading and directed that they must not appear again in the current form, and that future adverts, game descriptions and listings must make clear whether a game contains 'random item purchasing' (loot boxes).


The ASA's rulings underscore the importance of ensuring sufficient transparency and disclosure in advertising in-app purchases, as well as the increasing trend of legal and regulatory scrutiny of the use of loot boxes in video games.

The disclosure of the presence of loot boxes in a game should be readily accessible and easy to find for consumers. Exactly what this means will depend upon the context of each game and in which storefront(s) it is being listed. For example, the Apple App Store does not permit rating board labels (such as PEGI ratings) to be prominently displayed and developers would need to ensure that necessary disclosures are contained within an app's description in order to be compliant.

In addition, whilst not a legal requirement, the ASA has also recommended that marketers inform consumers about the types of (random) in-game purchases that games contain, such as whether items sold/affected are purely cosmetic and do not effect gameplay, whether they are limited to 'big ticket' purchases such as downloadable content/expansions or season passes, or whether the purchases are more 'functional' in nature, such as in-play features and gameplay-affecting items.

The ASA's remit is predominantly limited to ads targeted at UK consumers, typically evidenced by where the ad has appeared, as well as UK-specific ad copy. For example, where prices in are listed pound sterling and there are UK-based contact details. However, paid-for marketing communications on websites, apps and cross-border platforms that are not targeted to UK consumers may be referred to other members of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA). EASA is responsible for co-ordinating cross-border complaints between self-regulatory organisations such as the ASA across most members of the EU and many other non-European countries.

In addition to loot box disclosure requirements, the ASA has previously ruled and released guidance on in-game messaging relating to loot box transactions, time-limited offers and other in-game purchasing mechanics. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised by these rulings, please get in touch.

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