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Australia and France weigh in on loot boxes

France and Australia investigate loot boxes

France may soon take action against loot boxes, and they’re not alone.

An analysis of the French report courtesy of media law associate Sebastian Schwiddessen has helped push the issue of loot boxes and gambling in video games back to the forefront.

The ARJEL’s response is pushing for a vote on what course of action to take, but it stops short of instigating any legal action itself. It calls for better analysis of loot boxes by financial regulators and a combined consensus across Europe. And while the report does not outright call loot boxes gambling, they do make it clear that further investigation is needed to classify the issue. So at least for now, French gamers can continue to engage with loot box mechanics.

This distinction hinges on establishing a consistent definition for gambling, and then accurately applying that definition to loot boxes. Under most regulatory bodies there are a few aspects to said definition. The activity in question must include an element of chance, a financial sacrifice must be made in exchange for a potential gain, and the activity must be publicly available.

And it’s whether these elements apply to loot boxes that’s under contention. And it will be interesting to see where these investigations lead, and what their results are in terms of legislation. Who knows, maybe loot box odds will be required as public knowledge in more countries outside of China.

But it’s not just the French getting in some opinions on the loot box phenomenon, The Australian Senate are launching an inquiry into micro-transactions and loot boxes, investigating whether they constitute gambling and to what extent they “may be harmful”. While the inquiry won’t change any policy itself, it could inform future laws.

The statements which got the ball rolling, as reported by Kotaku Australia, stated an intent to investigate:

The extent to which gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items, sometimes referred to as ‘loot boxes’, may be harmful, with particular reference to:

(a) whether the purchase of chance-based items, combined with the ability to monetise these items on third-party platforms, constitutes a form of gambling, and;

(b) the adequacy of the current consumer protection and regulatory framework for in-game micro transactions for chance-based items, including international comparisons, age requirements and disclosure of odds.

So while various regulatory agencies try to kick the can down the road, looking at you ESRB, various other bodies are taking a much closer look at the issues involved. And while France stopped short of legislating the content directly, this latest salvo represents the potential for further action down the line. And when other EU countries are openly criticizing loot boxes, the odds of legal actions that could severely restrict the gambling mechanic are increasing over time.

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