Loot boxes in video games find an adversary in Google
The controversy surrounding loot boxes has led to Google changing its Play Store policies
The debate over whether or not video game loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling lingers. Some countries have already decided that they are too similar to gambling and have moved to prohibit them from being included in games, while others have taken the opposite route and have asserted that they don’t represent any potential hazards. In the US, at least one lawmaker is trying to prevent them from being included in games that could be played by adolescents, although there isn’t a clear way to offer such a guarantee. As the controversy continues, Google is using its power to force games offered on the Play Store that offer loot boxes to adhere to new restrictions.
Going forward, all games that offer loot boxes through the store are required to list the exact odds that are associated with earning an item of value. Google didn’t make an announcement about the change; choosing, instead, to just rewrite its terms and conditions to read, “Apps offering mechanisms to receive randomized virtual items from a purchase (i.e. ‘loot boxes’) must clearly disclose the odds of receiving those items in advance of purchase.”
Additionally, Google now requires all developers to establish a target audience for their apps. With this policy in place, any game that could target children will be forced to follow the company’s family policies, which include limiting the type of advertising seen, safety warnings to augmented reality experiences and revealing what information is gathered about the children.
The policies are similar to what has already been implemented by Apple, so the change isn’t too much of a surprise. However, it’s a further example of the impact loot boxes have on the gaming experience.
Fortnite recently made changes to its Llama loot boxes, which some had labelled as predatory. The move came following a lawsuit against Fortnite developer Epic that asserted that an underage player had been “harmed” by the loot boxes.