Australia might be gearing up to restrict in-game loot boxes, after the independent federal MP for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, recently introduced the Classification Amendment (Loot Box) Bill to parliament. The bill proposes to prohibit loot boxes from being accessed by children due to lack of proper classification.
Loot boxes are virtual rewards within games purchased with tokens or real money which contain randomly generated items that promise to make the player advance in the game or obtain a specific feature. Games such as FIFA, Call of Duty, Star Wars and Mario Kart, among others, feature loot boxes. Many see them as a developer’s tactic to monetize games and offset rising game-development costs.
Loot box rewards are created to be chance-based and can often be voluntarily purchased with money. Some of the prizes on offer in loot boxes can give players a competitive edge.
The similarities between loot boxes and pokies machines have garnered controversy around the world as to whether it qualifies as gambling or not. On one hand, countries such as the Netherlands have come to see it as gambling, while others argue loot boxes do not meet the legal definition of a ‘gambling service’.
However, MP Wilkie is proposing to the Australian parliament that games containing loot boxes be rated R18+, in addition to advisory warning parents and guardians.
“In essence the bill requires the Classification Board to consider loot boxes when classifying a game and to set a minimum classification or R18+ or RC for games containing this feature, in line with the fact that you must be 18 to legally gamble in Australia,” he said.
Wilkie argued that loot box mechanics offer addicting incentives and the nation should not “let our children to be groomed for gambling in this way”. He justified his stance by referring to research conducted by the Australian Gaming Council which found that 62% of popular video games contain loot boxes.
With the regulation of loot boxes, players under 18 years of age will be restricted from buying and using the products.