Ban ‘gambling-like’ loot boxes for children, says Children’s Commissioner
Fifa-style loot boxes should be "urgently" banned for under-18s, the Children’s Commissioner said as she warned that the video game features are "indistinguishable from gambling".
Anne Longfield said research by her office had shown that children spending money on the features were "chasing losses" in order to get the randomised in-game rewards such high-profile football players for their online teams.
Her comments come as pressure grows for ministers to close a loophole in the Gambling Act, which does not define loot boxes as gambling because their digital rewards are not considered to have any monetary value in themselves.
Earlier this year, Caroline Dinenage, the digital minister, launched a call for evidence on loot boxes in order to "fully understand any evidence of links to problem gambling".
In a report submitted to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport this week, seen by The Telegraph, the office of the Children’s Commissioner cited Fifa’s Ultimate Team title as one of the main video games in which children bought loot boxes.
Loot boxes explained
The submission warned that if children did not get the players they wanted from the randomised packs sold in the game to build their online teams, they felt as though they had "wasted their money" and could "chase losses" to try and get better players.
Following the submission, Ms Longfield described loot boxes, which appear in many other games rated suitable for children, as "indistinguishable from gambling" and called on ministers to ban them for under-18s.
She said: "This review cannot kick the can down the road any further. Now is the time for action. If the UK is one of the major centres of the global video games industry, then it is time for companies to take greater responsibility for the wellbeing of their users – especially their youngest ones.
"I want to see urgent legislation brought forward next year to address the harm being done to children by loot boxes and similar products."
The video below explains the loot box trend:
Her call comes after MPs last year also called for loot boxes to be banned for minors, and games containing them to be labeled as gambling, following an inquiry by the culture select committee.
During the inquiry, executives from Electronic Arts, which makes Fifa, defended the loot boxes, denying they constituted gambling and describing them as "a surprise mechanic".
A DCMS spokesperson said: “We’ve listened to parents’ concerns about loot boxes and it’s right that we fully examine and understand any evidence of the harm or links to problem gambling they can cause, so we can decide if action is needed.”