The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has called for the video game industry to take action on loot boxes before more governments do.
In an IGDA blog post, Executive Director Jen MacLean writes: “Random loot drops are a well-established game mechanic and a way to vary rewards and keep players interested and engaged. But when a player makes a real-money purchase of an unknown item – a loot box – we run the risk of triggering gambling laws.
“Those regulations are not always clear, and many people have noted that loot boxes are simply digital versions of collectible card games, but we cannot ignore the fact that video games face increased scrutiny, concern, and regulation because of their immersive nature.”
To head off these growing concerns, MacLean recommends a three-pronged approach. She calls for the industry to commit to not marketing loot boxes to children, to “clearly disclose” to players their odds of winning different rewards from a loot box, and to launch a “coordinated education campaign” to teach consumers about available parental controls.
“By not taking significant action as an industry and global game developer community to self-regulate how loot boxes are used, we run the very real risk that governments around the world will take that action for us, and perhaps create significantly restrictive laws that could impact any random reward elements in games,” continued MacLean. “I offer my strongest advice to game developers and interactive entertainment businesses on this matter: addressing how loot boxes are used is both the right thing and the smart thing for the global game development industry to do.”
Earlier this week, the Australian Senate called for a “comprehensive review” of loot boxes while the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), under pressure from the Senate, agreed to conduct its own loot box investigation.
In October, Ireland backed down from labeling loot boxes as gambling, which followed a September agreement between European and U.S. regulators to address gambling risks in video games.
Nick Santangelo is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He loves video games and sports, but not sports video games. Follow him on Twitter.