UK Government Launches Loot Box Evidence Gathering Campaign

  • Video game consumers and industry insiders are both targets of the evidence-finding exercise
  • Findings will be considered alongside the review of the Gambling Act 2005 later this year
  • Survey’s aim is to analyze potential harms, market scale, and the impact of current protections
Young person playing video games
The UK government has launched an online information-gathering exercise designed to harvest public and industry insights into the effects of video game loot boxes. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Public, private sector to contribute

The UK government Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has launched a call for evidence on the effects of video game loot boxes.

The evidence-finding exercise is dual targeted. One group is public facing, namely video game players aged over 16, and adults who have youngsters and children who play. The other group targets the private sector and comprises businesses, researchers, and organizations that are active or interested in loot boxes within the context of video gaming.

government “stands ready to take action”

According to a DCMS press release, the government “stands ready to take action” if the evidence gathered points to a need for better protection for users, particularly the young.

The cut-off time for all participants to submit their responses is 11:59pm on November 22.

Writing on the wall

With the DCMS stating that these findings will “be considered alongside the review of the Gambling Act 2005” this fall, the widely predicted major overhaul of the UK gambling industry is very much in the cards.

The loot box call to evidence will focus on three key areas: the experience of video game users and potential harms, the scale and function of the UK in-game purchase market, and the impact of existing voluntary and statutory protections.

understand any evidence of the harm or links to problem gambling”

The Minister of State for Digital and Culture, DCMS, Caroline Dinenage, said the video game industry was “making good progress developing safer environments.” However, she said her ministry had listened to parents’ worries and that “it’s right that we fully examine and understand any evidence of the harm or links to problem gambling.”

Loot boxes first captured widespread political attention in the UK in September 2019. In June 2020, the DCMS select committee’s report on immersive and addictive technologies recommended that key questions needed to be identified immediately in order to initiate “high-quality, independent research into the long-term effects of gaming.”

Questions posed

In early July, a House of Lords committee published an exhaustive 194-page report, complete with 66 recommended changes to UK gambling regulations. Underage betting was a particularly hot topic, with loot boxes held up as a prime exhibit after research found children referring to them as a form of gambling.

Fast-forward to today’s launch of call for evidence on loot boxes. Findings will be taken from the Qualtrics online survey platform, where a questionnaire is filled in using a basic multiple-choice formula. Initial questions range from “Have you ever opened a loot box?” to “How much do you typically spend on loot boxes per purchase?”, listing amounts from less than £1 ($1.27) to over £15 ($19.11).

According to 2018 research from games market analysts Newzoo, more than half the UK population plays video games, ranking sixth in the world. DCMS figures have video gaming contributing £2.6bn ($3.3bn) in gross value added in 2018, employing 27,000 people in 2019, with growth accelerating 16 times faster than the broader UK economy since 2010.