The UK government has responded to calls for it to do more to protect players from loot boxes by suggesting that these items are not considered gambling.
Controversy around loot boxes has been growing throughout October 2017. A number of high-profile console games launched with the mechanic, causing consumers to question whether they are just another form of gambling.
MP Daniel Zeichner then posed a question to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the matter. Zeichner asked "what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games."
Ten days after the question was posted, MP Tracey Crouch, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), provided a response which focused mostly on illegal gambling surrounding video games.
Off the hook
"Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action," she wrote.
"The government recognise the risks that come from increasing convergence between gambling and computer games. The Gambling Commission is keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market."
While the response doesn't explicitly reference loot boxes, it does suggest that since they cannot be traded for real money, they are not considered gambling. Therefore, they are not covered by the same laws, and developers are free to use loot boxes as they please.
The UK's response is relatively relaxed compared to other countries. In June 2017, Netmarble had to remove its real-money item trading system from Lineage 2 Revolution over concerns it would encourage "a gambling spirit" in young people.