The mental health director of England’s National Health Services has something to say about loot boxes. And that something is, “They’re addictive.” Naturally, the UK gaming industry also has a response: “We’re concerned and looking into it.”
In a statement on the NHS website, director Claire Murdoch said that loot boxes are “setting kids up for addiction by teaching them to gamble on the content of these loot boxes.” The NHS has opened a new treatment center to help gamers as part of a long-term plan to improve the nation’s mental health. According to the statement, 400,000 people in England , including 55,000 children, have a gambling problem. Murdoch has called for game companies to ban sales of games with loot boxes directed at children, introduce spending limits, disclose odds, and better inform parents.
As GamesIndustry reports, UKIE, the UK’s gaming trade body, has responded to the statement, saying that they do keep parents informed while they are working toward better odds disclosure by the end of 2020. UKIE also said it provides ways to “manage, limit or turn off spend in games with the help of family controls, through a number of public information sites,” which is probably a step removed from the in-game controls the NHS would rather see implemented.
All in all, it’s just another back and forth between a government agency and game industry body that’s unlikely to resolve much until legislation is enacted, or at least threatened, which was the case last year. I thought that the measures promised by the ESA would only apply to American companies, but I suppose it makes sense that those in the UK would also seek to adopt them, since they make games on consoles, as well. I’m still skeptical as to whether the “odds by the end of 2020” deadline will be met. Until then we’ll probably have a few more headlines similar to this one, especially if there’s another instance of a person, especially a minor, overspending on loot boxes.