Industry body UKIE announced its 11 principles for loot box use earlier this month.
Chief among those guidelines was the suggestion that developers “make available technological controls to effectively restrict anyone under the age of 18 from acquiring a Loot Box, without the consent or knowledge of a parent, carer or guardian.”
The guidelines are not currently legally enforceable, but apply to a raft of major mobile titles built around loot boxes, including the likes of FIFA, Genshin Impact, Diablo Immortal and Call of Duty Mobile.
But UKIE didn’t really explain what might happen to studios that didn’t follow its suggestions, so we asked for clarification on that point.
“The principles and guidance are there for industry to adhere to, and we expect the entire industry to adopt the principles,” a spokesperson told us. “It is worth noting the working group membership is wider than just Ukie members, therefore the principles and guidance apply to all those in the video games ecosystem.”
“More widely, members of this working group use a range of enforcement measures to ensure games are correctly labelled and carry an appropriate age rating,” they continued. “Remedial measures include delisting, relabelling and in some cases, severe fines.”
UKIE co-CEO Daniel Wood also told us that the UK government “will be monitoring the take up and effectiveness of the principles over the next 12 months,” and that UKIE would be “undertaking periodic reviews” of how the guidelines are being followed. “We will also be working with the wider industry to urge implementation and track effectiveness,” he added.
UKIE announced a couple of weeks ago that it is spending £1m to raise awareness of age ratings over the next three years. Part of the campaign can be seen below.
Mobile, the games industry’s largest segment by both player count and revenue, will be very difficult to regulate if these guidelines are to be enforced. Developers effectively self-select their age ratings on the App Store and Google Play, with Apple and Google approving those age ratings based on their own criteria.
It acknowledges that “some checks are done, but it is impossible to keep track of everything” when it comes to age ratings in mobile games.
“App age ratings are largely based on the developer’s insights, and as such are only advisory with regard to audiences,” it continues.
“Rating authorities across the world do retrospectively and selectively check the ratings on thousands of apps – the UK’s VSC Rating Board alone have looked at over 8,000 – but there is still a battle to keep pace with the volume released.”