Wednesday, March 10, 2021

No, Germany Is Not Age Restricting Video Games With Loot Boxes

Over the past few years, loot boxes have come under attack as a form of gambling. Countries like Belgium and Netherlands have outlawed the content. Japan had already declared complete gacha games illegal back in 2012. But observers have watched some of the larger markets like the United Kingdom inch toward loot box prohibition as government agencies continue to conduct research on the effects of gambling on children.

The largest market in the European Union is Germany. Much rejoicing went up as news spread that the nation of 83 million might restrict loot boxes to games rated PEGI 18. Those games are only purchasable by adults.

The source, Der Spiegel, seemed solid.

According to lawyer Julia Maris, the law will have an impact on the age restrictions. "Online games or other applications that use loot boxes or similar in-game offers would probably be classified with an age rating of 18 and over," Maris told SPIEGEL.

The reform would also affect games that were previously classified as harmless, such as "Fifa 21" . The soccer simulation is currently approved by the testing center for entertainment software self-regulation without age restriction. But since the “Ultimate Team” collecting mode offers card sets for sale as standard, that could change. In order to get an age rating for children for video games, loot boxes would have to be deactivated by default.

But Eurogamer printed an update yesterday, stating the reporting of the age restriction was in error.

It appears the Bundestag made a mistake with its own announcement of the legal reform. The announcement, which can be viewed on the Bundestag's website, no longer includes the line: "It is also planned to deactivate cost traps such as 'loot boxes' by default."

The amendment does stipulate that age ratings will be expanded to include descriptors for various problematic mechanics, including "cost traps". The idea here is to indicate risk if it was not taken into account in the age classification.

However, there is currently no indication that video games with loot boxes will be rated 18+.

Thankfully I couldn't get to the news right away so I avoided having to print a retraction. I guess a chance still exists that loot boxes could become age restricted, but the published information indicates otherwise.

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