Game Republic

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New Guidance on Paid Loot Boxes Published

Thanks to hard work by the trade association for the UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry (Ukie) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), new guidance has been published on the use of paid loot boxes in games.

MD of Game Republic, Jamie Sefton welcomes the new guidance  “This is a great step forward and an example of the positive outcomes of industry and Government working together for positive change and self-regulation. There are great examples of how industry is promoting safe play and responsible best practices, but this is another progressive step that will produce better outcomes for our industry and protect players and their families.”

The new guidance includes 11 guiding principles to protect UK players are as follows:

(1)      Make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a Paid Loot Box, without the consent or knowledge of a parent, carer or guardian. Technological controls shall be easy to use, activate and access and are introduced to all parents, carers and guardians through start up processes and unboxing.

(2)      Drive awareness of and uptake of technological controls with all players, parents, carers and guardians through regular communications, starting with an immediate targeted public information campaign. The impact of campaigns will be assessed at regular intervals and the campaign development will involve input from players, parents and third-party groups.

(3)      Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry. The group will meet regularly to develop and share best practices on age assurance in the video games industry, stay apprised of technological advancements and explore opportunities to develop improved systems for determining age and obtaining parental consent. The group will engage with relevant regulators and policymakers where necessary on an ongoing basis. 

(4)      Disclose the presence of Paid Loot Boxes prior to purchase and download of a game so that players can make informed choices.  Platforms, publishers, and developers commit to use the PEGI or equivalent proprietary age rating system on their storefronts and in game to always provide transparent information to players, parents, carers and guardians.

(5)      Give clear probability disclosures, making sure that players can easily access clear and simple information on the probability that they will receive given virtual items or categories of virtual items or other elements in a Paid Loot Box before they acquire or open it. Players should also be informed if their data is used to influence gameplay experiences with Paid Loot Boxes, and given relevant details.  

(6)      Design and present Paid Loot Boxes in a manner that is easily understandable to players, and which promotes fair and responsible play. Members of the industry working group also re-affirm their commitment to the OFT’s principles for online and app-based games and consumer law

(7)      Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework, to facilitate the creation of better quality, data driven research into video games that adheres to the principles of open science while respecting data privacy and confidentiality.

(8)      Continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from Paid Loot Boxes for real money, and continue to invest in IP protection to combat such sales. Members of the working group will continue to invest in and protect their intellectual property, enforce their terms of service, and where possible take action against unauthorised sale of items through third party sites. Industry is committed to an ongoing dialogue with Government, regulators and law enforcement agencies on this issue and welcomes additional assistance from such bodies in combating such unauthorised sales.

(9)      Commit to lenient refund policies on directly purchased Paid Loot Boxes or purchased in-game currency used to acquire Paid Loot Boxes, with clearly displayed contact routes for customer services. Members of the working group commit to fair and prompt refund policies where spending has demonstrably occurred without parental consent or knowledge and will provide clear instructions on how to turn on parental controls where issues persist.

(10)   Advance protections for all players. Members of the working group are committed to providing all players with information about how to play responsibly and manage their spending effectively on Paid Loot Boxes. We will continue to engage with third party organisations, players, parents, and academia to benefit from their learnings and experience including any new research developed through the Video Games Research Framework.

(11) Work with UK Government and other relevant stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of these principles following a suitable implementation period of 12 months. Members of the working group commit to a periodic review of these measures following their implementation alongside Government in order to assess these measures, assess the effectiveness of public information campaigns and take into account further technological innovation in the sector.

Full guidance that has come from the Technical Working Group can be downloaded here 

The Government has published an update today on improvements to industry-led protections:

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