On October 27, 2020, project manager Dr. Annette Cerulli-Harms presented the ConPolicy study on loot boxes in online games in the European Parliament. The study was carried out on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO).
Loot boxes are surprise mechanisms in online games, which are usually obtained through gameplay or waiting, but which may be optionally accessed by paying real-work money. They contain game-relevant or cosmetic items.
Loot boxes have been discussed controversially in the past: some psychologists see them as a gateway to gambling, while other voices refer to them as digital surprise eggs.
The study defined and classified different types of loot boxes to determine which aspects of loot boxes could be potentially harmful. Additionally, it summarized the state of the art in research and possibilities to deal with lootboxes.
The focus of the presentation and question time in parliament was on the available policy options. The study recommends that the EU tackles loot boxes and other potentially harmful gaming practices with consumer policy instruments. For example, information on loot boxes could be improved, and transparency increased. The study advises against regulating loot boxes through gambling regulation, as the EU has only limited competences in this policy area. Isolated national decisions in this regard would compromise the internal market. The study also recommends verifying the effectiveness of new measures through further research.
Following the meeting, the parliament set up a working group on the subject. This group will consist of committee members from all political groupings with the aim of further discussing options for action to improve consumer protection in online games, especially for children and young people.
The recording of the presentation as well as the question time with the parliamentarians can be seen here (from minute 10:33). If you have any questions, please contact project manager Dr. Annette Cerulli-Harms.