20 groups of consumers declare war

Are loot boxes finally breaking down? Many consumer groups want more regulation to better protect gamers.

20 consumer groups from 18 European countries have come together to launch a coordinated campaign against loot boxes. The authorities must be persuaded to give players better protection.

Accordingly, a number of measures are needed that, among other things, should prevent misleading game designs and enforce greater transparency in transactions.

The 20 organizations represent consumers in Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The campaign is coordinated with the European Consumer Organization in Brussels.

‘A broad arsenal of tricks’ according to the NCC

as examples in A 59-page document from the NCC It mentions the titles “FIFA 22” and “Raid: Shadow Legends”. The document says: “Both games use a wide arsenal of tricks to deceive consumers into investing as much time and money as possible by taking advantage of consumers who hope to receive the reward despite the fading opportunity and prospect of doing so.” low”.

According to the report Players are often tricked and taken advantage of in the context of selling and offering loot boxes. It includes:

  • Exploiting cognitive biases and weaknesses through misleading design.
  • Employ strong marketing practices to encourage sales at every opportunity.
  • Senseless or misleading transparency claims about the probability of winning or losing are difficult to assess.
  • Using opaque algorithms and distorted probabilities.
  • Using virtual currency layers to disguise or disguise the true monetary cost.
  • The very high cost of freemium grinding and infinite grinding.
  • Risk of losing content at any time.
  • Targeting loot boxes and child manipulation practices.

Targeted companies are accused of exploiting consumers through the use of mechanisms that consumer advocates believe are “predatory” and “addictive-promoting”.

Microtransactions make records ring

At least since the pre-launch phase of “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” the topic has caused a great deal of controversy in the video game industry and beyond. Loot boxes should have become a staple of the shooter, which, according to fears, would have made it a “Star Wars online casino for kids”. The mechanics, which also contained pay-to-win elements, were removed after much criticism prior to launch. But it is a topic that has occupied the industry for years.

Not without reason: developers and publishers earn several billion dollars through loot boxes, microtransactions, and other types of monetization. For some companies, classic video game sales have slipped into the background.

Activision Blizzard, for example, recently indicated that in-game revenue from live service titles, downloadable add-ons, World of Warcraft subscriptions, loot boxes, and cosmetics was $5.1 billion last year. This represents 61 percent of the publisher’s total sales. Industry giants such as Electronic Arts and Take Two achieve comparable values.

Business models are technically complex or new

However, ethical guidelines are not always followed when monetizing: “We have found through our work that the sale and display of loot boxes often involves the exploitation of consumers through displacement mechanisms, the promotion of dependencies, the targeting of vulnerable consumer groups and much more.” , says Finn Merstad, director of digital policy at the NCC.

Despite the fact that the video game industry is an important branch of the economy, it has largely escaped regulatory control. “The prevailing business models are technically complex or new. Video games are viewed by many authorities as a niche entertainment market.” Ultimately, governments and industry must take responsibility for ensuring a “safe environment for gamers.”

More news on this topic:

Every now and then something happens: in April 2018, the Belgian Gambling Commission decided loot boxes, such as those sold for real money in the “FIFA” Ultimate Team mode, constitute a game of chance. The court in The Hague ruled in October 2020 that EA can impose a fine of €500,000 for each week the company sells loot boxes in FIFA Ultimate Team. Judgment came later Canceled again.

In fiscal year 2021, the publisher earned $1.62 billion in Ultimate Team modes.

More news about loot boxes.

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