Head of IGDA Calls for Industry Action on Loot Boxes

The International Games Developers Association (IGDA) has issued a call to action on loot boxes. Jen MacLean, IGDA Executive Director, asked for industry self-regulation in the face of greater scrutiny by government authorities.

MacLean, in a post titled “Call to Action: Loot Boxes,” asked the industry to change how it handles loot box-esque systems. Loot boxes and other real-world money purchases have faced controversy and disdain from governments and consumers alike.

MacLean referenced the United States FTC investigation into loot boxes, Belgium’s investigation, and restrictions in Netherlands as necessitating industry change.

“But when a player makes a real-money purchase of an unknown item-a loot box-we run the risk of triggering gambling laws,” she said. “Those regulations are not always clear, and many people have noted that loot boxes are simply digital versions of collectible card games, but we cannot ignore the fact that video games face increased scrutiny, concern, and regulation because of their immersive nature.”

MacLean laid out steps that the industry should take immediately to curb outside regulation. Those steps are:

  • Affirm an industry commitment to not market loot boxes to children.
  • Clearly disclose the odds of different rewards when purchasing loot boxes. (as many games already do to comply with Chinese law)
  • Launch a coordinated education campaign that boosts awareness of the parental controls that are already available to appropriately limit how players engage with games.

The IGDA believes that without self-regulation the industry could face “significantly restrictive laws.” These laws could impact the implementation of loot box systems in games and rewards people can receive.

Loot box systems have been a growing concern in the video game industry over the past decade. Last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront II galvanized the gaming community (and governments) because of its use of loot boxes and microtransactions. That game faced massive controversy for pay-to-win systems, stingy economy, and frustrating progression system. EA backtracked heavily on that game’s implementation of microtransactions, and went as far as to remove them for months.

Single-player games were also not safe. Middle-earth: Shadow of War implemented microtransactions which it later removed almost a year after the fact.