Sunday, July 23, 2023

UK Gaming Industry's Approach to Self-Regulate Lockboxes: An Overview


In recent years, the gaming industry has faced significant scrutiny over the use of lockboxes, also known as loot boxes or gamble boxes. These mechanisms, which have been a key driver of monetization in online games for over a decade, have been criticized for their similarities to gambling. In response to this criticism, the UK gaming industry has announced plans to self-regulate lockboxes, with Ukie, the group representing the games industry in the UK, publishing new principles and guidance on the matter.

The Controversy Surrounding Lockboxes

Lockboxes have been a contentious issue in the gaming industry for several years. Critics argue that they exploit players, particularly children, by encouraging them to spend money on randomized rewards, a practice that is structurally and psychologically akin to gambling. This led to calls for increased regulation, with the UK government threatening to introduce legislation if the industry did not take action.

Ukie's Principles and Guidance on Paid Loot Boxes

In response to this pressure, Ukie has published a set of principles and guidance on paid loot boxes. These guidelines suggest that game companies should:

  • Implement and promote technology to prevent children from accessing lockboxes without guardian intervention, and offer lenient refund policies for children who manage to bypass these measures.
  • Disclose the presence of loot boxes before players download the game and provide clear information on lockbox probabilities.
  • Prevent the unauthorized external sale of items acquired from loot boxes for real money.
  • Provide all players with information on how to play responsibly and manage their spending on loot boxes effectively.
  • Establish a panel on age assurance in the industry, support research, and cooperate with the government on measuring the effectiveness of these guidelines.

However, it's important to note that these are guidelines, not mandates, rules, or laws. The document states, "This guidance is not exhaustive, nor prescriptive, to ensure that the principles remain achievable by the entire industry while leaving scope for games companies to continue to innovate." Enforcement and punitive measures, ranging from delisting to fines, will be handled by PEGI.


The move by Ukie to self-regulate lockboxes represents a significant step in the ongoing debate over the role of these mechanisms in the gaming industry. While these guidelines are a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen how effectively they will be implemented and enforced. As the gaming industry continues to evolve, the conversation around lockboxes and their impact on players is likely to continue.

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