UKIE unveils 11 industry guidelines for loot boxes

Grit loot box

The trade body for UK games has put together a set of 11 voluntary loot-box guidlines in consultation with the government.

The UK Interactive and Entertainment trade association (UKIE) has announced a set of 11 guidelines for the games industry when it comes to implementing loot boxes, whereby players can spend money to receive random items.

The move comes after the conclusion of a UK government inquiry into loot boxes last July, which stopped short of imposing direct regulation over loot boxes as a form of gambling, but recommended that the industry should impose its own regulations. At the time, Nadine Dorries, then the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said that unless there was “tangible progress”, the government “will not hesitate to consider legislative change”.

The new guidance unveiled by UKIE (spotted via PC Gamer) was recommended by a Technical Working Group convened by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It consists of 11 ‘industry principles’, which are summarised below:

  1. Make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a loot box.
  2. Drive awareness of and uptake of technological controls.
  3. Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry.
  4. Disclose the presence of loot boxes prior to purchase.
  5. Give clear probability disclosures.
  6. Design and present loot boxes in a manner that is easily understandable.
  7. Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework.
  8. Continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from loot boxes for real money.
  9. Commit to lenient refund policies.
  10. Advance protections for all players.
  11. Work with UK Government and other relevant stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of these principles following a suitable implementation period of 12 months.

This is all very sensible stuff, and welcome. At the very least, disclosing the odds of receiving certain items should be standard industry practice, and indeed it is required by law in some countries, including South Korea.

However, whether the games industry will heed these new principles remains to be seen. At the moment, they are completely voluntary.

UKIE says that one of the first industry measures will be to “launch a £1 million, three-year public information campaign to raise awareness of player controls”, featuring the stand-up comedian and Loose Women panelist Judi Love. The campaign will begin in July, and will aim to “support and guide parents on how to use parental controls that help manage in-game purchases including loot boxes, screen time, online interactions, and access to age-appropriate content”.

Read more: Nintendo taken to court over Mark Kart Tour lootboxes

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