Over the last few months there has been significant debate on whether or not video game loot boxes constitute gambling. While industry bodies such as the ESA disagree that they are gambling, elected officials in several countries such as Belgium and the United States have looked into legislation against the business model.
Yet another country is about to weigh in on the loot box gambling debate according to report by the Welt Am Sonntag in Germany. The publication reveals that Germany’s Commission for Youth Media Protection of the State Media Authorities is currently debating how best to deal with the issue. Wolfgang Kreißig, the chairman of the Youth Protection Commission, says that “I think that it’s imaginable that loot boxes violate the ban on gambling for children and minors.”
The German authority is set to reach a decision on the issue in March, during which it could decide to fine game developers and publishers who include loot boxes in their games. The authority may also prohibit game creators from including loot boxes in games altogether as a loot box ban. Considering Kreißig’s comments, any ban would likely affect games sold to minors, rather than those rated for adults.
Welt Am Sonntag‘s report points to a study from the Universty of Hamburg that found that a minority of players are responsible for the majority of loot box revenue and that this is “a typical feature of gambling markets.” It is unclear whether the members of the Youth Protection Commission will consider this specific study when coming to a decision.
Germany is not the only country considering an outright loot box ban or possible fines for those that include the business model. For example, a loot box ban has also been considered in the Netherlands.
However, Germany is an economic powerhouse and not only does it have the largest GDP (gross domestic product) of any country in Europe but its games industry is also worth over $4 billion annually. It is also the home of major industry events such as Gamescom. Any loot box ban in the country would likely have a dramatic impact on the revenue of any game released there.
It should be noted that at least one games industry body is currently looking into self-regulation as a way to fix the loot box issue without government intervention e.g loot box bans. But it’s unclear how much progress has been made on that front and whether or not a group like the German Youth Protection Commission would even consider that as a solution.
Source: Welt Am Sonntag