Gamers in the UK will now be alerted if the title they are playing contains loot boxes or other types of premium add-ons.
New rules introduced by Pan European Game Information (PEGI) this week mean that video game publishers are required to provide additional information about in-game purchases.
The notice, “Includes Paid Random Items”, will feature on both physical packaging and digital storefronts.
In a statement, PEGI said: “Video game publishers will start to provide additional information about the nature of in-game purchases if these include random items (like loot boxes or card packs).
“A text box will now be added to provide the additional information if the game features paid random items.”
PEGI has been assigning in-game purchase descriptors to video games since September 2018, and its recent announcement comes amid a period of concern over paid-for items and ‘loot boxes’.
Loot boxes are now a permanent feature in many games, allowing players to buy in-game items using virtual currency purchased with real money. Popular titles such as EA Sports’ FIFA games contain loot boxes in the form of card packs. The packs, which provide randomly generated players, are used in FIFA’s ‘Ultimate Team’ mode online.
EA Sports has been heavily criticised over the selling of such packs, which some say are a form of online gambling.
In 2019, MPs suggested that in-game purchases should be regulated in a similar manner to gambling in the UK.
As part of the DCMS‘ Immersive and Addictive Technologies inquiry, MPs heard how one gamer spent up to £1,000 on FIFA loot boxes. Other young gamers told the inquiry they had accrued significant levels of debt due to their out-of-control spending habits in games.
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A subsequent report published by the DCMS found that loot boxes had become “integral” to revenue streams at major publishers.
“Loot boxes that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance should be considered games of chance played for money’s worth and regulated by the Gambling Act,” the DCMS report said.
Many companies had also been “wilfully obtuse” when discussing issues with in-game purchases, while MPs encountered difficulty when requesting information on the type of data collected by games companies, the inquiry found.
Other nations have taken action on the issue. Belgium became the first nation to completely ban the sale of loot boxes, while China recently announced it would strictly regulate the number of boxes that users can open every 24-hours.