Most games offer in-app purchases that include ‘loot boxes’ which are prizes that often look like treasure chests.
‘Loot boxes’ are bought with real currency and are regarded as gambling because players cannot always see what’s in the boxes before they click buy – this introduces the element of chance which is central in gambling practice.
This means that users are unable to decide if their goods are worth the price being asked for and can encourage multiple purchases to ‘win’ the desired loot or to ‘recover loses’. Popular games containing Loot Boxes are: FIFA, League of Legends, Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Fortnite Battle Royale.
Following widespread criticism towards the gaming industry, it was announced in April 2020 that PEGI (Pan European Gaming Information) ratings on in-game purchases would apply to ‘loot boxes’.
In 2019, MPs called for in-game spending to be regulated by gambling laws, and from October to November 2020, the UK Government issued a call for evidence on the impact of Loot Boxes on young people. This research is yet to be published but will likely inform next steps and potentially result in including Loot Boxes under the Gambling Act 2005.