The UK has become the latest country to wade into the ongoing debate surrounding loot boxes, and a report published by the British government has found that the controversial practice will not be banned - but game companies will be encouraged to "self-regulate."
After a 22-month consultation process, UK Culture Minister Nadine Dorries said the UK will not move to ban the practice, and said the government would discuss tougher “industry-led” protections with the UK’s £7bn gaming sector, which is a fancy way of saying they will leave game developers to their own devices.
Dorries said "Games developers, publishers and platforms operating in the UK must take responsibility for ensuring player safety, and work collaboratively to find tangible industry-led solutions."
The consultation process began in the summer of 2020, and the findings found that the current UK government doesn't plan to bring in stricter measures on loot box mechanics.
“Legislation to introduce an outright ban on children purchasing loot boxes could have the unintended effect of more children using adult accounts, and thus having more limited parental oversight of their play and spending,” the British government said, in a response to the consultation.
“Our view is that it would be premature to take legislative action without first pursuing enhanced industry-led measures to deliver protections for children and young people and all players,” it added.
The practice has already been banned in Belgium with The Netherlands looking to follow suit, and a report conducted by the Norwegian government was backed by consumer organisations from 18 European nations.
Loot boxes are a major source of revenue for gaming developers, but have become incredibly controversial as some believe it locks content that is normally earned by playing the game behind a paywall, while others believe it is no different to gambling.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr David Zendle, a video games expert at University of York said "prior select committee inquiries have unambiguously shown that certain bad actors within the video game industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate when it comes to player protection."
“By making those same industry bodies the ones that are responsible for regulating loot boxes, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport is essentially guaranteeing that foxes are the ones guarding the hen house.”