Monday, April 19, 2021

Germany may restrict loot box games to adults

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Another European country may soon place legal restrictions on video game loot boxes. As The mirror and Eurogamer report, the German Bundestag has passed a reformed youth protection law that would limit loot boxes to games with an age group of 18 and over. By law, “game-type mechanisms” pose too much risk to children.

The revised law has yet to receive Bundesrat (Federal Council) approval, but could enter into force as early as spring if it goes ahead.

Developers like EA have a long time connection refused to the game, comparing Kinder’s egg loot boxes and other goodies with surprises inside. Critics have dismissed those defenses, however, accusing the studios of devising loot box mechanics to exploit users with promises of rare cosmetic items or paid perks.

It wouldn’t be an outright ban, like in Belgium, but it could still have a dramatic impact on games sold in Germany. Game stores may need to implement more stringent age controls, and developers may need to limit access to loot boxes around the country or remove mechanics altogether. This could be particularly damaging to publishers like EA, who have made these systems a staple in games like FIFA 21Ultimate Team Mode – it would be necessary to increase the age of the game from 3 years and over to 18 years and cut off part of its audience.

Other countries could follow suit. Elements of the British government have called for regulations that would treat loot boxes like games of chance. If so, developers could be faced with even more difficult decisions regarding loot boxes. No matter how committed a creator is to these semi-random packs, they may decide to back down if enough governments make the boxes impractical.

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