The Spanish government, through the Department of Consumer Affairs, announced on Friday that it will present a bill to regulate video game loot boxes, which the Department compared to games of chance, in order to avoid addictions such as compulsive gambling and to preserve the health of players. If approved, it would be the first country in Europe with a specific law for this sector.
The announcement was made at the opening of the seminar ‘Loot Boxes. New challenges for the video game industry’, organized by the Department of Consumer Affairs to discuss these random reward mechanisms with experts and professionals from the sector.
The concept held by the minister of that department is that the boxes share the randomness or chance in the result, that it costs money to activate the mechanism and that the prize has an evaluable value. “The reality is that behind video games there is a sub-game very similar to traditional games of chance that carry a health risk,” the Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, said.
At the event, Garzón further indicated that having a specific law to regulate loot boxes, and even the market for cryptocurrencies and NFTs (non-fungible tokens), “will allow having fun and that this is compatible with the preservation and maximization of the health of all consumers and, in particular, of those who are most vulnerable.”
Garzón stated that the aim is for the regulation process to be completed this year, including the parliamentary process, although he indicated that the ‘political rhythm in Spain is always uncertain’, according to EFE news agency.
In an interview with the Spanish radio station Radiocable, the minister said on Friday that his office has drafted “a very specific law” that will be presented “in a few days” to regulate these contents, although he did not provide further details of the proposal.
In the radio program, Garzón identified himself as a video game player and pointed out that loot boxes are “a system for improving the capacity of the video game, […] but characterized by chance.”
“You’re going to try to get an upgrade of that video game feature without knowing exactly what you’re going to get, randomness is included. You’re going to get a prize and also this can be interchangeable with an economic value. What this does is that we have a kind of slot machine within the video game itself,” the minister said.
He pointed out that these mechanisms would also have “the negative consequences that slot machines can have […], for example, because this implies compulsive consumption behaviors” that could lead to players’ bankruptcy.
Based on this, Garzón warned that these video games are offered to minors under 18 years of age and that, according to figures from the Ministry of Health, 30% of this age group “acknowledges in 2021 that they have paid significant amounts of money to acquire an upgrade of these characteristics.”
It should be noted that, in February of this year, Minister Garzón had already stated that he was evaluating the inclusion of loot boxes and NFTs in the legislation that regulates games of chance in Spain.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Association of Videogames (AEVI) recently made a statement regarding the remarks made by the Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs and has “outright rejected the comparison of videogames to games of chance”.