German authorities have joined the chorus of critics calling for the regulation of video game loot boxes after research found video games were adopting gambling elements.
Welt Am Sonntag reported that Germany’s Commission for Youth Media Protection, part of the State Media Authorities, stated that it’s considering a ban on loot boxes after a University of Hamburg study concluded that elements of gambling were becoming increasingly common in video games.
Loot boxes are virtual boxes in video games in which players can find additional weapons and additional paid offers for the games, for example.
“I think it is conceivable that loot boxes could violate the ban on gambling to children and adolescents,” Germany’s Youth Protection Commission Chairman Wolfgang Kreißig pointed out, according to the news outlet.
University of Hamburg researchers found that many video game manufacturers were relying on the mini-purchases within the game. Often times, players needed to buy items during the game in order to gain an advantage and win.
They found out that manufacturers pocketed around €8 billion ($9.92 billion) in worldwide sales in 2016 due to their ‘Pay2Win’ business model. For 2017, the researchers expected this figure would grow by almost 30 percent to more than €10 billion ($12.39 billion).
After analyzing the business models and industry sales figures, the researchers concluded that a minority of players were responsible for the majority of loot box revenue, noting that it was “a typical feature of gambling markets.”
Citing these findings, the German commission planned to deliberate whether to fine game developers and publishers who include loot boxes in their games or to prohibit game creators from including loot boxes in games altogether.
The commission plans to render its decision in March.
The issue whether these in-game purchases should be considered gambling continues to divide regulators across the globe. In November, Belgium’s Minister of Justice KoenGeens wanted to prohibit loot boxes, saying the in-game purchases were “dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
Meanwhile, the UK Gambling Commission and the Gambling Compliance Office of New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs both agreed that loot boxes did not meet the legal definition of gambling.