The question of the century—are loot boxes a form of gambling, or aren’t they? There is a global divide on how the video game offerings are viewed and some countries have already decided that they should be classified as gambling and, as such, are either outlawed or regulated. Other countries, though, look at them as nothing more than a fun addition to the games that don’t necessarily require a cash purchase to obtain and deserve to be left alone. Sweden is now looking to weigh in on the subject, but the final outcome—much in the same way as the outcome of the loot boxes—isn’t known.
Sweden’s Minister for Public Administration, Ardalan Shekarabi, has ordered the Swedish Consumer Agency (SCA) to review all video game elements that could be considered as having a link to casinos, lotteries or gambling. The goal is to determine if the necessary consumer protection measures are in place and to understand if adolescents are unduly being targeted by the loot boxes. The SCA is expected to submit its findings by this October.
There has been an obvious divide on how loot boxes are viewed—government and private entities are either for them or against them with no one riding the fence. EA Games is the perfect example, aggressively asserting that it will stand behind loot boxes regardless of legislative controls (although it finally relented in Belgium). However, the Swedes have been more willing to compromise. Dataspelsbranschen, a gaming trade group in Sweden, is looking to cooperate with authorities to find a happy medium.
The group’s spokesperson, Per Strömbäck, told GamesIndustry.biz, “Speaking on behalf of the industry, we welcome this initiative. We agree that it is a consumer protection issue (rather than gambling regulation as some have suggested) and welcome support and guidance in protecting the consumers. The industry has of course already taken action in light of the criticism, through the introduction of new indicators in the age rating systems and in Sweden we are in the process of starting a scientific advisory council on responsible game design (not limited to business models).”