ASA calls for final evidence on ‘loot box advertising’

The ‘consultation phase’ requiring evidence on ‘advertising of loot boxes and other in-game purchases’ will close on 28 January next week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has reiterated.

The UK advertising standards body launched its consultation back in November, following concerns raised by government ‘select committees’ on elements of loot boxes, highlighting in-game purchases.

Later in December, Electronic Arts (EA) confirmed it would be reviewing European terms of play relating to the ‘Ultimate Team’ mode of the FIFA video game series.

Compliance with European gambling laws has been a major difficulty for the developer in recent years, as the presence of loot boxes in EA titles (particularly FIFA) – has led to regulatory penalties and high court disputes of its services. 

In its consultation statement, ASA acknowledges that current concerns on in-game purchases fall outside the remit of its UK Code of Advertising (CAP Code) with regards to non-broadcast communication standards.

“Rather than implementing new rules, we think that the issues in question can be suitably addressed through specific formal guidance on existing rules,” the statement read. 

“This guidance covers the pricing information at point of purchase, the language and approaches used to advertise in-game purchases (and the games they appear in), and the use of in-game purchased items in ads for games.” 

Seeking guidance, ASA has identified three key areas which it believes will mitigate potential harms for audiences and reduce conflicts for game publishers: clarity of information at point of purchase, responsibility of advertising messages, and truthfulness in advertising of games containing purchasing.

 Last November, the DCMS closed its own consultation on loot boxes, gathering evidence on whether certain in-game mechanics could be classified as gambling engagements.

Publishing the Gambling Act’s policy document, DCMS Sports Secretary, Nigel Huddleston, acknowledged growing concerns on loot boxes. 

However, the minister underscored that there would be no ‘knee jerk reaction’ on the matter, as the review needed to provide a clearer picture on ‘young people’s experiences with loot boxes’.

Last year, teenager Jonathan Peniket told his ‘loot box gambling’ story to the BBC, speaking of how he spurned his life savings on FUT packs after becoming addicted to purchasing players within the popular video game.