Video game companies are violating UK loot box rules

Army style video game loot box

The ASA has upheld complaints against several major video game companies for failing to mention in advertising that their games contain paid loot boxes. [Image:]

Bad advertising

Although video game companies in the UK are allowed to self-regulate when implementing loot box mechanics, many of them have broken the rules surrounding these gambling-like in-game features.

They failed to mention in Facebook ads that their games contained loot boxes

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has warned three companies for failing to indicate in Facebook ads that their games contained paid loot boxes.

Electronic Arts (EA), Jagex and Hutch Games violated the rules, with EA attributing the problem to human error and claiming that these failures did not reflect the company’s overall compliance with the rules. Jagex said there was insufficient space for a warning in its Facebook ads and that the message was also included in other types of ads, while Hutch admitted he misinterpreted the instructions and subsequently made the necessary changes.

Call for change

Leon Xiao, an expert in loot box regulation, found violations in over 90% of the ads he viewed. He presented just some of the breaches to the ASA to bring the issue to light, suggesting that self-regulation was not the best way to protect children. Speak with The guard About video game companies, he said that they should “be role models and not rule breakers themselves.”

Xiao plans to file more complaints this year if authorities fail to resolve the violations. He also called for tougher punishment for repeat offenders and for advertising platforms to take some responsibility for the content they host.

UK gambling trade association Ukie said all members plan to comply with the new loot box guidelines by July.

The leader of the Peers for Gambling Reform group in the House of Lords is now calling on the government to intervene to properly regulate loot boxes. A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the government was monitoring the impact of recent guidelines and had made it clear that video game publishers must do more when it comes to protecting people.

Rule in loot boxes

Loot boxes allow players to use in-game currency or real money to open packs containing virtual items. These items are typically assigned a probability depending on their rarity, which determines the frequency of their appearance. Many people have compared loot boxes to spins on slot machines.

can be a gateway to more serious gambling for minors

Numerous countries have introduced blanket bans on these types of in-game features, including the Netherlands and Belgium, over fears that they could provide a gateway to more serious gambling for minors.

The UK government decided against defining loot boxes as gambling products and instead set up a working group tasked with drafting industry regulations. This led to the publication of 11 principles in August, including a requirement that companies indicate in advertisements that they offer paid loot boxes.


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