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Australia introduces new bill to age gate loot boxes

Australia doesn't want to wholly eliminate loot boxes, just restrict games featuring them to players aged 18 and up.

Justin Carter

November 29, 2022

2 Min Read
Screenshot of a loot box from Blizzard's Overwatch.

Australian politician Andrew Wilkie recently introduced a bill to the country's government that would require video games with loot boxes to have an age requirement. Should the bill be passed into law, games that incorporate the controversial mechanic would be restricted to players aged 18 (Australia's legal age for gambling) and older.

Games that allow players to purchase random in-game items or characters with real world money, the bill reads, "are popular with adolescents and young adults. Despite this, loot boxes are not currently required to be considered in classification decisions nor are games required to advertise when they contain this feature."

With how prevalent loot boxes are in various popular online games, restricting those titles to a specific age demographic could potentially impede games from attracting new, young players. In turn, that would potentially affect their player counts and revenue earned.

The bill would also require that games containing loot boxes be classified as R18+ (the country's equivalent to an M rating), and provide an easily identifiable warning for parents and guardians. Other games with loot boxes may potentially be outright refused classification entirely, and wouldn't be able to be legally sold at a retailer. 

In Wilkie's explanatory memorandum, he wrote that loot boxes are another form of gambling, and can potentially become addictive to young players. His bill, he continued, is "reasonably proportionate to the legitimate purpose of protecting young people from exposure to gambling like game features."

Can loot boxes actually be legally roadblocked?

With its new anti-loot box bill, Australia follows suit behind countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium in taking a more firm stance on the in-game mechanic. 

In the case of the Netherlands, members of its government created a motion that would outlaw loot boxes entirely. The motion still needs to pass through the senate before any further steps can be taken. 

As countries take loot box matters into their own hands, researcher Leon Y. Xiao released a study in August showing that laws against loot boxes aren't as effective as they seem. Xiao wrote that companies have been easily able to ignore Belgium's loot box law, which is already enforced ineffectively. 

In his research, Xiao speculated that countries taking a stance against loot boxes also has the potential to hurt their viability as a home for its esports players. He argued that countries need to implement "less restrictive approaches...complete elimination of the loot box mechanic from a country is not practically achievable."

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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