With EA and other game manufacturers decision to withdraw lootboxes from many of their major titles the need for legislation has largely passed.
Lootboxes are blind boxes of virtual items bought for real money in video games. Any video game with a lootbox should be classified as 18 years old plus and include a "this game contains gambling" warning on it.
Why is this important?
Increasingly major video game companies are seeking to increase their profit margins on new releases. One method they are choosing to use is lootboxes. These lootboxes are random collections of digital items within video games. They contain a variety of items for use within the game. However they are purchased for real money.
The actual value of the items varies and purchasers seeking a specific item are forced to purchase multiple lootboxes in order to obtain a specific item. While these items have no monetary value and usually cannot be sold this practice is not legally regarded as gambling under UK law.
The real harm in these lootboxes is that many of the games which feature them are targeted at children. For example, the FIFA football game series or the latest Star Wars Battlefront II games, which are or will be extremely popular with children. The addictive nature of gambling has been well-documented and is one reason why under-18s are prohibited.
These games are exposing children to expensive and addictive habits which could easily extend into 'real world' gambling as they grow up. The games companies behind the lootboxes are profiting from this exposure.
The government should amend the Gambling Act to include lootboxes and associated products and ban their sale to under 18s by either prohibiting their inclusion in games altogether or giving all such games an '18' BBFC rating with a specific warning for gambling.
Whether you feel video games are a waste of money or a valuable culture expression, or lootboxes are harmless for adults - surely we must protect children from this gambling mechanic.