The German Youth Protection Commission may introduce a ban on the so-called loot boxes, following the recent publication of a study into the nature of the purchasable virtual items by the University of Hamburg.
According to the study’s findings, more and more video games include elements of gambling, thus normalizing the activity to young and vulnerable players. University of Hamburg scholars point out that in a manner similar to the gambling industry, the video gaming sector and its growth depends heavily on a single smaller group of players.
Although the debate over the nature of loot boxes has emerged on several occasions over the past several years, it has been heating tremendously since the release of the Star Wars Battlefront II video game. The action shooter game featured the controversial loot boxes, thus drawing waves of criticism to its publisher EA.
Generally speaking, loot boxes, also known as loot crates, are purchasable items within some video games. The boxes feature sets of unknown items that can improve a player’s performance in the game significantly, but can also be of little value and help. The contents of each virtual box become known to a player only after they have completed the purchase. Many have likened the practice of buying said virtual items to gambling, which has caused quite some controversy in the field.
The German Youth Protection Commission has become the latest regulator to join the growing debate. Wolfgang Kreißig, Chairman of the Commission, told local media earlier this week that they are mulling a ban on loot boxes. With that said, video game publishers could be forced to withdraw games that feature the controversial items.
Mr. Kreißig said that the Commission will make a decision on its future actions toward loot boxes in March.
Loot Boxes Violate Children Protection Regulations
The Youth Protection Commission official further dwelt that video games that feature loot boxes could be violating established regulations for the protection of children and young people.
The virtual items have been attacked by watchdogs for the resemblance they bear to gambling activities and thus, for normalizing gambling to young and vulnerable people.
Over the past several months, there were several gambling regulators to have initiated probes into the matter. The Belgian Gaming Commission was among the first to fire at the controversial items and to open investigation into them. The Dutch Gambling Authority, Kansspelautoriteit, followed suit and also committed to probing for any potential link between loot boxes and gambling.
Most recently, a lawmaker from the Washington State Senate, Sen. Kevin Ranker, introduced a bill that authorizes the local gambling regulator to investigate and determine the nature of loot boxes and whether their purchase represents a form of gambling. In addition, the Washington State Gambling Commission will have to craft proper regulations for the virtual items in case an actual link to gambling is found.