Call them lockboxes, lootboxes, gambleboxes, or gachapon: The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution “ensuring a safe online environment for online video game users” – and that includes finding a “harmonized approach” to regulating lootboxes, which are mentioned 20 times in the formal report.
With 577 of 648 votes in favor, the EU Parliament calls out multiple problems inherent in and exacerbated by the games industry: commercial exploitation of minor content creators, dark patterns, data collection and security, excessive play, manipulative design, addiction and game disorder, hate speech, cyberbullying, creepers, poor representation, discrimination, hyper-sexualization, harassment, inaccessibility, confusing parental controls, tricky currencies, randomized loot boxes, and even aggressive pay-to-win models and the impact of gold farming. Seriously.
Parliament appeals for for “strong consumer protection” in video games and “if needed, regulatory measures in order to protect users […] from illegal practices” in the industry, specifically pressing the industry and member states to protect minors and apply existing laws and prohibitions to gaming. It calls “on the Commission to analyse the way in which loot boxes are sold, and to take the necessary steps to bring about a common European approach on loot boxes to ensure adequate protection of consumers, in particular minors and young children.” And it further demands that information about online games that include lockboxes and virtual currencies are clearly labeled and transparently explained prior to purchase.
“[W]hereas so-called loot boxes containing apparently random objects are usually accessible through the game or can be paid for with real money; whereas they can be sold using game designs, commonly known as dark patterns, which could have negative psychological and financial consequences through unwanted or uncontrolled purchases, especially for minors and young children; whereas there is an ongoing court case in the Netherlands on the measures to apply to loot boxes; whereas Slovakia is also investigating the appropriate measures to take; whereas this lack of a harmonised approach leads to the fragmentation of the market for video games within the EU; whereas there are no specific consumer protection mechanisms at European level to ensure the protection of all players, particularly minors and young children, as regards paid loot boxes[.]”
The confirmed report also “[s]tresses that developers of online games that are directed towards to minors and young children must take their ages, rights and vulnerabilities into account; stresses that they must meet the highest possible standards by design and by default when it comes to safety, security, privacy and setting time limits, notes that, in addition to supplementing the standards by default, parents can play an important role in protecting minors and young children when playing video games; points out, however, that the gaming industry should carry out awareness campaigns and support on the use of appropriate tools and information on how to better protect their minors and young children.”
It’s a massive resolution, with ripple effects for the global industry, not just the EU – if it is heeded.