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Games industry agrees to new restrictions on loot boxes in UK

Posted on 27 July 2023

UKIE, the games industry trade body, has published new industry guidance on the use of loot boxes in video games. The guidance is designed to meet the UK Government's objective to improve protections for all players, as it set out in its response to the call for evidence on loot boxes in video games in July 2022. 


The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched a call for evidence on loot boxes in videogames in September 2020 "in light of concerns about the potential for loot boxes to cause harm." A loot box is a game feature whereby players can purchase a virtual ‘pack’ that contains a random item, either with real money, or with virtual currency. The review into loot boxes was developed alongside the DCMS' white paper review of the UK Gambling Act. 

Following this call for evidence, the UK Government in its response set out

  • three key principles for how loot boxes should be regulated, namely: 
    • purchases of loot boxes should be unavailable to all children and young people unless and until they are enabled by a parent or guardian; 
    • all players should have access to, and be aware of, spending controls and transparent information to support safe and responsible gameplay; and 
    • better evidence and research, enabled by improved access to data, should be developed to inform future policy making on loot boxes and video games more broadly. 
  • that it would establish a Technical Working Group to develop industry-led guidance on loot boxes (in accordance with its three core objectives, above); and 
  • that it would publish a Video Games Research Framework to facilitate further academic research. 

The UK Government also made clear that, should the industry fail to deliver on these protections, it would "not hesitate to consider legislative change". You can read more about the consultation response in our article here

The Guidance 

The industry guidance published by UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), was developed by the Technical Working Group convened by DCMS. It comprises the following 11 key principles: 

Make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a Paid Loot Box, without the consent or knowledge of a parent, carer or guardian

Technological controls should be easy to use, activate and access and are introduced to all parents, carers and guardians through start up processes and unboxing. 

Drive awareness and ensure uptake of and uptake of technological controls

Drive awareness and ensure uptake of and uptake of technological controls with all players, parents, carers and guardians through regular communications, starting with an immediate targeted public information campaign. The impact of campaigns will be assessed at regular intervals and the campaign development will involve input from players, parents and third-party groups.

Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry

The group will meet regularly to develop and share best practices on age assurance in the video games industry, stay apprised of technological advancements and explore opportunities to develop improved systems for determining age and obtaining parental consent. The group will engage with relevant regulators and policymakers where necessary on an ongoing basis. 

Disclose the presence of Paid Loot Boxes prior to purchase and download of a game so that players can make informed choices

Platforms, publishers, and developers commit to use the PEGI or equivalent proprietary age rating system on their storefronts and in game to always provide transparent information to players, parents, carers and guardians.

Give clear probability doclosures

Clear probability disclosures ensure 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 Paid 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 Paid Loot Boxes in a manner that is easily understandable to players, and which promotes fair and responsible play

Members of the industry working group also re-affirm their commitment to the OFT’s principles for online and app-based games and consumer law.

Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework

The Framework will 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 Paid Loot Boxes for real money and continue to invest in IP protection to combat such sales

Members of the working group will continue to invest in and protect their intellectual property, enforce their terms of service, and where possible take action against unauthorised sale of items through third party sites. Industry is committed to an ongoing dialogue with Government, regulators and law enforcement agencies on this issue and welcomes additional assistance from such bodies in combating such unauthorised sales.

Commit to lenient refund policies on directly purchased Paid Loot Boxes or purchased in-game currency used to acquire Paid Loot Boxes, with clearly displayed contact routes for customer services

Members of the working group commit to fair and prompt refund policies where spending has demonstrably occurred without parental consent or knowledge and will provide clear instructions on how to turn on parental controls where issues persist.

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 Paid Loot Boxes, and to 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 Government in order to assess these measures, assess the effectiveness of public information campaigns and take into account further technological innovation in the sector.

Our analysis

The principles have been supplemented with examples of both good and bad practices of implementation.

The guidance consists of both requirements for developers to implement – such as greater levels of disclosure and more lenient consumer-facing policies – as well as commitments that the Technical Working Group will pursue. It is also notable that certain principles are not entirely new requirements. For example, #4 on the disclosure of the presence of loot boxes, or a variation of it, is already a requirement of many rating agencies and app storefronts, and therefore a de facto requirement. Meanwhile, other principles are explicit requirements which reflect the general approach of transparency under consumer law, such as #5 requiring the disclosure of pack probabilities and odds.

The UK Government will review the effectiveness of these principles within the next 12 months.

Should you have any questions about what these principles may mean for you, please get in touch with a member of the team.

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