Expert Finds That Self-Regulation of UK's Loot Box Disclosure Requirements Is (Surprise!) Not Working

EA and JAGEX are among the companies reported.

Michael Byrne
By Michael Byrne, Editor in Chief Posted:

star wars battlefront 2 loot box

Well, it's so crazy I'm sure no one saw this coming.

Back in 2022, leadership in the UK was very resistant to actually establish laws regarding loot boxes in video games. While countries like Belgium decided to treat them in a way similar to the way gambling is regulated, the UK feared "unintended consequences" in such a position. While legislators did recognize a potential harm to children with cash-purchased loot boxes, they weren't ready to ban or regulate them.

Instead, the government created a taskforce that included a number of video game companies. This group was told to create guidelines for "fixing" the loot box issue or face potential regulation. The group came up with 11 Principles to use as guidance, including new steps to add additional and easier to use parental controls, and providing transparent information on the inclusion of loot boxes in a game's advertising so customers could take that into consideration before purchasing.

As many of you probably could have guessed, when companies get to regulate themselves, they might not be all that inclined to ACTUALLY regulate themselves. According to The Guardian, Leon Xiao, upon investigating hundreds of games, found that over 90% of them failed to actually include loot box disclosures in advertisements as their self-created guidelines required.

Xiao is a PhD fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen and a "loot box expert." Seriously, the dude's a loot box rockstar. Check out their X and past pieces like this one where we've referenced Xiao's work, opinions, and reporting.

While Xiao only filed four complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), he claims that wasn't due to a lack of available violations, but just due to a matter of personal resources. The ASA upheld these claims against F1 Clash, Rebel Racing, EA's Golf Clash, and JAGEX's RuneScape. All were titles available via iOS and Google stores, but all advertisements failed to notify customers that loot boxes were in the product.

EA claimed their issue was due to human error and says they fixed the two issues identified. JAGEX told the ASA that there wasn't room for the disclosure on the referenced Facebook ad, but they had included them in other ads. Hutch, makers of F1 Clash and Rebel Racing, advised that they misunderstood the principles and would fix the issues.

Xiao says that he could have had 268 other complaints to file, underscoring the point that these weren't just a few mistakes, in his opinion.

Don Foster, the chair of the House of Lords group Peers for Gambling Reform, said: “‘It is abundantly clear that self-regulation does not work and that the government must intervene to properly regulate loot boxes and their marketing to protect children.”

Gee...who could have seen this coming? Until there's ACTUAL repercussions for violations (and not just drop-in-the-bucket wrist slaps for mega-corporations) I wager we'll continue to see these kinds of issues.

Got a news tip? Contact us directly here!

In this article: RuneScape, EA, Jagex, Hutch.

About the Author

Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne, Editor in Chief

Mike “Magicman” Byrne has been a part of the MMOBomb family for years and serves as the site’s current Editor-in-Chief. His love for MMOs and gaming in general has led him to covering games for numerous gaming websites including Gamebreaker TV and XIV Nation where he proudly displays his fanboy flag for FFXIV:ARR.

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