Ukie has today published 11 Industry Principles surrounding Loot Boxes in video games, as recommended by the Technical Working Group. The Technical Working Group was convened by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to develop these industry principles.
Loot boxes are a feature in some video games which players can purchase with real money, or acquire with virtual currency, to receive random items. In the Government’s response to the call for evidence, it called for improved protections for children, young people and adults following concerns raised about loot boxes. It set out its view that the purchase of Loot Boxes should be unavailable to children unless enabled by a parent or guardian, and that all players should have access to spending controls and transparent information to support safe gameplay. The 11 new Industry Principles on Loot Boxes are designed to meet these two key objectives detailed in the Government response.
The Technical Working Group, which included representatives from across the video games industry, has designed these Principles following extensive engagement with DCMS, other government authorities, academics, third party advocacy groups and consumer groups, to reflect the fact that increasing player protections and transparency is a shared responsibility across the entire video games sector.
Minister for the Creative Industries John Whittingdale said:
"We've been clear the video games industry needs to do more to protect children and adults from the harms associated with loot boxes. These new principles are a big step forward to make sure players can enjoy video games responsibly and safely. I look forward to seeing games companies put the plans into action and will be watching their progress closely.”
Ukie Co-CEO Daniel Wood said:
“Publishing these shared Principles for how the industry approaches loot boxes is a UK first and provides us with a clear direction moving forwards. The Principles will improve protections for all players and underlines the industry’s commitment to safe and responsible play. We look forward to working collaboratively across industry and with others to implement them over the coming months.”
The Industry Principles are:
1. Make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a Loot Box, without the consent or knowledge of a parent, carer or guardian.
2. Drive awareness of and uptake of technological controls with all players, parents, carers and guardians through regular communications, starting with a targeted public information campaign launching in July.
3. Form an expert panel on age assurance in the games industry. The group will meet regularly to develop and share best practices, stay apprised of technological developments and explore opportunities to develop improved systems, engaging with relevant regulators and policymakers where necessary as well as consulting with players, parents and caregivers and third-party organisations.
4. Disclose the presence of Loot Boxes prior to purchase and download of a game so that players can make informed choices.
5. Give clear probability disclosures, making sure that players can easily access clear and simple information on the probability that they will receive given virtual items or categories of virtual items or other elements in a Loot Box before they acquire or open it. Players should also be informed if their data is used to influence gameplay experiences with Paid Loot Boxes, and given relevant details.
6. Design and present Loot Boxes in a manner that is easily understandable to players, and which promotes fair and responsible play.
7. Support the implementation of the Video Games Research Framework, to facilitate the creation of better quality, data driven research into video games that adheres to the principles of open science while respecting data privacy and confidentiality.
8. Continue to tackle the unauthorised external sale of items acquired from Loot Boxes for real money and continue to invest in IP protection to combat such sales.
9. Commit to lenient refund policies on directly purchased Loot Boxes or purchased in-game currency used to acquire Loot Boxes where spending has occurred without parental consent or knowledge, with clearly displayed contact routes for customer services.
10. Advance protections for all players. Members of the working group are committed to providing all players with information about how to play responsibly and manage their spending effectively on Loot Boxes. The group will continue to engage with third party organisations, players, parents, and academia to benefit from their learnings and experience including any new research developed through the Video Games Research Framework.
11. Work with UK Government and other relevant stakeholders to measure the effectiveness of these principles following a suitable implementation period of 12 months. Members of the working group commit to a periodic review of these measures following their implementation alongside the UK Government in order to assess these measures, assess the effectiveness of public information campaigns and take into account further technological innovation in the sector.
One of the first industry measures will be to launch a £1 million, three-year public information campaign to raise awareness of player controls featuring the popular broadcaster Judi Love. Beginning in July to coincide with the start of the summer holidays, the latest campaign will support and guide parents on how to use parental controls that help manage in-game purchases including loot boxes, screen time, online interactions, and access to age-appropriate content.
Full details of the Industry Principles can be found on the Ukie website.