Introducing a bill
An Australian member of parliament with a history of gambling opposition is looking to eliminate the sale of video game loot boxes to minors.
Australia’s government will be investigating the sale of loot boxes and other microtransactions
Andrew Wilkie, 61, has introduced a bill that would restrict loot boxes to customers at least 18 years old. The move comes after an announcement that Australia’s government will be investigating the sale of loot boxes and other microtransactions in video games.
Several countries have already declared loot boxes to be gambling and there have been many advocacy groups that have called for their elimination. Though not as extreme, the new bill would give the Australian government more control over the matter.
Future of loot boxes in Australia
The bill is already receiving support, despite just being presented yesterday. The government has not officially viewed it, but several other MPs, including Liberal National Party’s Andrew Wallace, are reportedly likely to show support.
In Wilkie’s bill, loot boxes are described as predatory as they feed into the compulsions associated with gambling. He notes his concern that children exposed to loot boxes will develop an addiction to gambling and be at great risk as adults.
all loot boxes and related systems should be reserved for an adult customer base
Wilkie’s bill goes on to state that all loot boxes and related systems should be reserved for an adult customer base. He is also calling for warning labels on games, highlighting the problems associated with loot boxes.
The bill concludes by suggesting the Australian Classification Board classify all games utilizing loot boxes as R18+ or RC (refused classification).
“RC” video games cannot legally be sold in Australia, which means that the bill, if passed, could effectively eliminate the sale of loot boxes in games in Australia. If a game with loot box systems was labeled R18+, retailers would need to verify the age of any purchasing customer before the sale could be processed.
Loot boxes are items that video game players purchase within the game, either directly with real money or with in-game currency that can be purchased with real money. A description of the item is given, though the contents are unknown.
One of the most popular types of loot box is found in Electronic Arts’ FIFA game. The boxes are known as “packs,” which players open to receive players, collectibles, stadiums, kits, training items, and more.
Each pack will say the number of players in the pack, what type of player they are, and what their value range is, though they do not strictly define the contents, which means that some (rare) packs are much more valuable than the others, hence he gambling component.
Earlier this year, Sony was implicated in a lawsuit in Austria over the sale of loot boxes to a 17-year-old.
thousands of dollars are often needed to build competitively strong characters
In May, the launch of the game “Diablo Immortal” was blocked in the Netherlands and Belgium because it featured loot boxes. According to players, thousands of dollars are often needed to build competitively strong characters in that game.
The current climate in Australia supports responsible gambling, but the Entertainment Software Rating Board opted not to reclassify games with loot boxes when given the opportunity a few years ago. Much has changed since then, though, and there have been studies linking loot boxes to long-term problems.