Australia has long upheld some of the strictest game rating classifications on the planet, though a new bill just filed in Parliament will impose further restrictions on games with loot boxes. As reported by Games Industry.biz, the new legislation will amend the strict Australian Classification Board guidelines further, labeling any game with loot boxes to be R18+, Australia’s equivalent to the ESRB “Mature” rating. Furthermore, games with loot boxes may be denied classification entirely, which would effectively ban the game from sale in Australia.
Australian MP Andrew Wilkie is the lead for the bill, co-sponsored by MP Andrew Wallace, which significantly increases the chances of the bill making it into law. Wallace and Wilkie are from different political parties, and while frequently on opposite sides of proposed legislation, the two MPs working together shows that the government’s bid to restrict gambling is heating up. The National Health Service in London is one of many organizations worldwide to declare that loot boxes are gambling
Ironically, as loot box regulation is close to becoming a reality, it was the mere threat of legislation that caused many game publishers to abandon the practice entirely. Overwatch 2 removed loot boxes despite the incredible success Blizzard had with them in the first game. A similar occurrence happened with Rocket League, which removed loot boxes in 2019 following the fallout of the political reports on the practice.
In the years since, developers have often opted to include a Battle Pass system in lieu of loot boxes. One of the biggest-selling franchises, Call of Duty, made the switch from paid DLC to Battle Passes in 2019, which is a year that keeps getting mentioned when discussing loot boxes. However, one of the biggest supporters of the practice, EA, is still using a form of loot box with its FIFA Ultimate Team player packs.
At one point, Ultimate Team brought in millions of dollars of revenue for EA on a monthly basis. The game mode, which relies on players purchasing packs of digital cards to unlock players, was labeled as gambling in the Netherlands and prompted the United States Congress to explore loot box regulations. After years of the threat of regulation hanging over publishers’ and developers’ heads, Australia’s government is finally poised to severely restrict the practice of offering loot boxes in video games.
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