Legal action being taken against loot boxes in video games isn't a new idea by any stretch, but some countries haven't quite gotten around to it. Ever since the particularly extensive controversy surrounding EA's Star Wars Battlefront 2, various nations, mainly in Europe, have implemented legislation regarding loot boxes.
Now, Australia might join that club.
In a bill introduced by Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, a new law could possibly limit or outright ban the sale of virtual loot boxes to minors in Australia. Properly enforcing this is a logistical nightmare, but Wilkie's bill has a simple, if draconian, solution.
As per the bill, any and all games which featured loot boxes or other forms of gambling that somehow involved real money would be slapped with the R18+ rating, essentially turning them into adult-only products. Age ratings like this in Australia aren't just loose 'guidelines' like elsewhere, but hard laws that would prevent such games from being sold to minors.
Publishers often go out of their way to dodge R18+ ratings in Australia, because they have a tendency to torpedo sales big time. Wilkie's reasoning is that loot boxes are for all intents and purposes a form of gambling, and games with them as a feature being played by minors would be "grooming them for future gambling". This seems to be a bit of a slippery slope argument, but it is one lawmakers share in many countries.
That being said, credible studies have proven that loot boxes can be a very real danger for people who go into the game with pre-existing gambling problems and addictions - though we suspect most minors do not fall into this category - which has fuelled legislative action against the mechanic. It is undeniable that loot boxes are a clear profit venture and are anti-consumer at best and outright predatory at worst.
Should this bill pass, Australia will join an increasing list of countries taking a stance against loot boxes - and we hope others will join it as well.