Claire Murdoch, head of mental health at the NHS, warned in a statement that booty boxes in video games could “addiction children,”media reported. In his statement, Murdoch also called on video game companies to ban the sale of booty boxes to children, echoing the growing skepticism of loot boxes in video games in other countries around the world.
In a press release on the NHS website, the group announced the creation of a gambling treatment centre and 14 gambling clinics across the UK, set up through the NHS’s long-term programme to improve mental health and provide at least 2.3 billion pounds in additional funding over the next five years. The British Gaming Commission found that 55,000 children across the UK were “classified as gambling problems” and that 400,000 children in England were living with serious gambling problems.
Murdoch’s statement did not quantify how many of the children had gambling problems because of the booty boxes in video games, but she took a hard line against them. In his statement, Murdoch made four demands for video game companies. Most importantly, she called on publishers to ban the sale of games with booty boxes to children. She also believes game publishers should “introduce fair and realistic spending limits” to discourage people from spending a lot of money on in-game purchases.
Murdoch also said video game companies should actually publish the odds on items in the booty box and figure out the odds before buying them. Finally, she thinks companies should help raise awareness of the risks of micro-transactions between parents. Check out her full statement below:
Frankly, no company should be addicted to children by teaching them to gamble on the contents of these booty boxes. No company should sell elements with such opportunities to children’s booty box games, so these sales should be terminated.
The health of young people is under threat and while the NHS is gradually delivering these new, innovative services to families through long-term programmes, we cannot do so alone, so the rest of society must do everything in its power to limit risk and protect the well-being of children.
Britain is not the first government to take a hard line on the booty boxes. In the United States, elected officials have introduced legislation to ban booty boxes for children’s games. Countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have declared that they consider booty boxes to be a form of gambling, expand them into illegal and, in some cases, force issuers to abandon micro-trades altogether.
In the UK, we haven’t seen much in regulation because of the lack of power from regulators. More specifically, booty boxes circumvent gambling rules in the country because for some of them there is no way to monetize what players receive.
The line is becoming increasingly blurred as users sell their booty accounts through third-party websites and game publishers continue to test their limits. The NHS release features a game that “even features a virtual casino that allows players to invest real money in games such as 21-point cards and poker.” Although the NHS statement did not mention the name of the game. (Media speculated that the game is “Grand Theft Auto 5”).
Naturally, major publishers have been shying away from the notion that booty boxes need to be regulated or removed directly from the game. Last year, when EA attended a meeting of the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Kerry Hopkins, the company’s vice-president of legal and government affairs, argued that the booty box was a “surprise mechanism” similar to kinder Eggs. Hopkins continued that EA believed the way the company implemented booty boxes and micro-trades in games was “actually very ethical and interesting.”