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UK Finally Makes A Decision About The Future Of Loot Boxes

As gaming has gradually transcended its nerdy niche roots and emerged as a mainstream form of entertainment, gaming publishers have looked at various ways to further monetize games and increase their profit margins. This has spawned microtransactions and loot boxes, which have been among the primary sources of discussion within the gaming sphere. While some of these microtransactions are somewhat inconsequential and are purely based around aesthetics, others have caused an uproar due to them offering players who are willing and able to pay big bucks an advantage over those who are not.

Because of the controversy associated with the practice, microtransactions and loot boxes have been under the microscope for several years now. Belgium infamously banned microtransactions outright in 2018, calling them predatory gambling mechanics that prey upon children and underage gamers. Companies like EA have shot back at these accusations, dubbing loot boxes and things of the sort as "surprise mechanics." Because of this debate regarding microtransactions and loot boxes, as well as their ethical merits, within the gaming company, other countries have followed Belgium's lead in further evaluating the practice. The most recent was the United Kingdom, which began probing into ethics of loot boxes as early as 2019 and whether or not it is a form of gambling. After over two years worth of investigation, the country recently published its final stance on the issue.

The UK won't ban loot boxes

After a two-year probe, the U.K.'s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) revealed that it will not outlaw loot boxes in the future and has concluded that loot boxes does not violate the country's Gambling Act. To support its decision, the U.K. government likened in-game loot boxes and microtransactions to other forms of memorabilia that isn't as looked down upon. "Consumer products ranging from football stickers to trading cards, or even some subscription services such as 'wine of the month' clubs, rely on a mechanism whereby the real value or utility of the 'prize' is not necessarily known at the point of purchase," the official report stated. "While careful legislative drafting could help single out loot boxes, they do not necessarily have well-defined boundaries which clearly demarcate them from comparable products."

The decision, according to a foreword by DCMS Secretary of State Nadine Dorries, was made in order "to mobilise the industry's creativity, innovation and technical expertise to deliver tangible progress," but maintained that the DCMS could pursue other legislature in the future, should it find that the concept is misused.