Efforts to regulate loot boxes in Spain meet resistance from trade group

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Posted: July 4, 2022, 7:41 a.m.

Last update on: July 4, 2022, 01:19 a.m.

Spain is figuring out how and if it wants to regulate loot boxes in video games, as they allegedly promote gambling. It’s an idea that’s going around the world. But at least one professional group hopes to block the initiative.

Video gamers
Video game players play at the lounge in Paris, France. The concept of loot boxes in video games is criticized and includes a possible ban on them in Spain. (Image: Reuters)

The Spanish government is seriously considering regulating loot boxes, an initiative created by current consumer affairs minister Alberto Garzón. As a fan of video games, he has intimate knowledge of how they work. However, at the same time, he is also a politician who must follow the political manual.

Last Friday, Garzon opened the window for public comment on how Spain are proceeding with the loot boxes. The Spanish Association of Video Games (AEVI, for its Spanish acronym) hopes to influence the decision.

Loot boxes become Jill Sandwich

AEVI José María Moreno said in a statement that there is no scientific evidence linking loot boxes to gambling. If Spain introduces its law, it could cause undue damage to the industry, a- he added.

Loot boxes are an issue that worries many undereducated watchers due to their similarity to the game. Their contents are random, but they usually include cosmetic items for games, such as Rocket League, Diablo Immortal, Overwatch or directly the virtual FIFA FUT player cards.

Players can purchase loot boxes with cash. But they seldom know what they are getting before purchase. However, the connection to the game is tenuous at best, as there is always a price. Additionally, players can also purchase loot boxes with in-game points – they don’t always have to be purchased with real money.

Courts around the world have been debating loot boxes for years, and there is still no consensus. However, in Garzón’s words, loot boxes are a type of content that can lead to “reckless, compulsive, even pathological” consumption behaviors.

AEVI does not agree at all. She is even working with her European counterparts in the face of the referral of the project to the European Commission (EC). AEVI wants to bring its opposition directly to the EC.

The main concern of the video game industry is that this law, if approved by Spain, supposes a break with the European regulatory dynamic. It isolates the Spanish market, which harms businesses and consumers.

Moreover, Moreno argues that this law is an overreach of the Department of Consumer Affairs. He claimed that the initiative is incompatible with other policies of the same government “which sees the video game industry as an agent of innovation and cultural creation”.

Press “F” to end the game

The public comment window closes on July 23. Then the bill will be sent to the Spanish General Court to become permanent law.

The ministry said this law would strictly only affect loot boxes, or as they specifically put it, “solely and exclusively ‘Random Reward Mechanisms (MAR) or loot boxes’. This applies to cases where players acquire them for real money or via virtual currency that loot boxes can provide.

This will impact two streams of income. One is the loot box segment. The second is the segment of third-party resellers who sell outside of gaming, such as those who have FIFA Ultimate Team Coins for sale. The government also wanted to clarify that video games are not equated with MAR, which it says are primarily games of chance.

The law will prohibit access to minors, through a process of documentary verification through the national registration of the Spanish identity card. At the same time, for those over 18, it will be possible to partially or totally limit expenses.

Meanwhile, the companies themselves will have to show the possibilities of getting one item or another in each box – no more random results. In addition, video game advertising will follow the same guidelines as the sports betting market.

The Netherlands could join the initiative of Spain and several European countries to regulate the use of loot boxes. As reported by the media VGCat least six Dutch political parties have agreed to back a law that would outright ban loot boxes in games.

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