Germany may restrict games with loot boxes to adults

A potential law would consider the boxes as gambling.

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Another European country could soon place legal restrictions on video game loot boxes. As Der Spiegel and Eurogamer report, Germany's Bundestag has passed a reformed Youth Protection Act that would limit loot boxes to games with an 18-plus age rating. The "gambling-like mechanisms" pose too many risks for kids, according to the law.

The revised law still has to receive approval from the Bundesrat (Federal Council), but could take effect as early as the spring if it moves forward.

Developers like EA have long denied connections to gambling, likening loot boxes to Kinder eggs and other treats with surprises inside. Critics have rejected these defenses, though, accusing studios of designing loot box mechanics to exploit users with promises of rare cosmetic items or pay-to-win advantages.

This wouldn't be an outright ban, as in Belgium, but it could still have a dramatic impact on games sold in Germany. Game stores may have to implement more stringent age checks, and developers might need to either limit access to loot boxes in the country or remove the mechanics entirely. It could be particularly damaging to publishers like EA, which has made these systems a staple in games like FIFA 21's Ultimate Team mode — it would have to raise the game's age rating from 3-plus to 18-plus and cut off some of its audience.

Other countries might follow suit. Elements of the UK government have called for regulations that would treat loot boxes like gambling. If so, developers might face even tougher decisions about loot boxes. No matter how committed a creator might be to these semi-random packs, they might decide to back away if enough governments make the boxes impractical.