At least 71 out of a 100 Google Play Games examined in a new research paper were not correctly marked to comply with loot box regulations.
IT University of Copenhagen’s Center for Digital Play lawyer Leon XIao has published a paper in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science, reports Phys.org. In the paper, XIao claims that game makers in various markets are not complying with mandates for labelling games which include loot boxes.
In his report, Xiao claims that this non-compliance can harm children and their families, and argues that game makers should be pressured to display warning labels on games which include the mechanic.
Loot boxes have come under increasing scrutiny worldwide, with many regions classifying the system as gambling. This has led to countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands banning games which feature loot boxes entirely, with Australia becoming the latest country to take steps with a proposed crackdown on loot boxes which would see all games featuring the mechanic receive higher, but advisory, age ratings.
Xiao notes that, while some entities such as the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) insist that all games with loot boxes include warning labels, these labels aren’t legally binding, which results in low compliance. As such, consumers can’t rely on self-regulating policies to protect themselves and their families from financial harm due to the use of loot boxes. As such, he states that improvements to the current system are required to prevent underage users from downloading games which include loot box mechanics.
A box full of controversy
XIao conducted two studies before coming to his conclusion. In the first, he found that 60.6% of games he examined which were sold by members of organisations which mandated warning labels were not using the labels. This was partly due to the fact that label use wasn’t retroactive, and so games which include loot boxes but came out prior to the imposition of new regulations were not labelled correctly.
In the second study, Xiao found that 71 of 100 games he downloaded from the Google Play store which offered loot boxes did not have the correct labels, and so consumers could inadvertently download these games.
Despite the increasing controversy surrounding loot boxes, a Canadian judge recently refused to classify them as gambling.