In what could be a watershed moment for microtransactions and loot boxes in gaming, reports are coming out of Germany that the government could move to completely ban loot boxes in video games sold in the country
A report from German website Welt describes a study conducted by the University of Hamburg which has seen the Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media come to the conclusion that microtransactions and loot boxes in games played by minors may require harsher punishments handed down to publishers.
Certain restrictions could be placed on games on sale in the country that offer loot boxes, plus fines for publishers and, in the worst-case scenario for German gamers, total bans on selling certain games. A decision by the commission (1 of 14 which make up Germany’s central state media authorities) is due in March.
The recent controversy surrounding loot boxes has forced the hand of politicians ranging from Hawaii to Belgium. Germany’s government, however, could become the first to officially act.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been the poster child for loot boxes, and arguably the reason why such studies have come to light. Its micro-transactions will return “in the next few months” according to EA, yet Germany’s upcoming decision could force an immediate re-think on the publisher’s part.
For context, games as varied as Rocket League and Overwatch also offer loot boxes, it’s not just minors playing games meant for adults – and that’s where things begin to get more troubling and why politicians and lawmakers are feeling the need to step in. The kid-friendly aesthetics enveloping those games are at odds with the real-life currency used to purchase a random assortment of cosmetic items.
It remains to be seen whether this is another storm in a teacup – Germany is often the outlier, not the trailblazer when it comes to banning and restricting games – but, if nothing else, it’s an interesting step forward in combating the seriousness and prevalence of online gambling via loot boxes, and that can only be applauded.