Spain eyes under-18 ban of loot box incentives
Spanish media has reported that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs ‘will follow Japan and Belgium’ in prohibiting minors (under-18s) from engaging with loot box rewards or incentives.
The decision will be announced as Alberto Garzon, Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs finalises his department’s first draft of a ‘legislative decree’ on the governance of video game purchases and consumer rights.
The Ministry had proposed a review of loot box rewards and player incentives at the start of the year, in which it outlined that Spain would be ‘Europe’s pioneer on regulating of the in-game purchases video games and protecting minors’.
Yet, following the Ministry’s review, Spanish media claimed that Garzon has raised concerns over the ‘random reward mechanism’ (RRM) used by video game developers that mirrors “too many similar characteristics to games of chance”.
Restrictions are required to protect minors from developing gambling risks, as the Ministry is reported to have found that 35% of video games and 55% of mobile games use loot boxes to monetise customers.
While not officially disclosed, Garzon is reported to have instructed the Ministry to draft technical protections on how to stop minors from interacting with loot boxes.
Measures may include restricting minors’ access to in-game shops where they can purchase loot box rewards/credits or applying an in-game ‘registration system’ that will require players to submit ID to verify their age.
The ministry will further present new rules with regards to loot box advertising and in-game promotions, as decree rules will not prevent minors from purchasing or playing video games that feature loot boxes.
The decree on video game reforms and consumer rights will likely be revised, as the Ministry has stated that it plans for changes to be implemented into federal law by 1 January 2024.
Though positive of its determination on RRM mechanisms, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs will want to avoid a costly legal challenge by video game developers on its loot box reforms.
Last March, EA Sports, the game developer behind the FIFA Football series, the world’s best-selling sports game, saw its €10m penalty rescinded by the Hague Commercial Court of the Netherlands.
In its review of Europe’s highest-profile loot box dispute, the court ruled against Dutch regulator Kansspelautoriteit’s (KSA) original judgement that FIFA loot boxes could be interpreted as a ‘games of chance’ reward, as prizes offered were interchangeable amongst other FIFA players.
Furthermore, EA Sports had made a clear distinction that loot boxes were awarded to players on the basis of skill over chance due to players accumulating FUT Coins on the ‘FIFA Ultimate Team Mode’ (FUT Mode).