Germany to add loot boxes to video game age-rating criteria

| By Daniel O'Boyle
From 1 January 2023 German video game age-rating body Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) will start considering whether a game includes loot boxes as part of its age-rating system.
Loot boxes

The body last week issued a reminder that new rules will apply to its age-rating system for video games from 1 January. It specifically noted that this system will now include “loot boxes” – where a player uses in-game credits to purchase a random chance of winning an in-game item – as a factor in age ratings.

“In the future, in addition to content relevant to the protection of minors, possible online risks – such as purchasing or communication options – can also be taken into account in the process of statutory age marking,” the body said. “Specifically, the independent USK committees can now check in individual cases whether any usage functions could pose an increased risk for children and young people, for example in relation to chats in the game or unwanted expenses.”

The new rules themselves note that a higher age rating for a game would be appropriate if a product were to “impair or jeopardise” a young person’s relationship with gambling, “promote gambling, contribute to desensitisation to gambling losses or give rise to unrealistic product expectations”.

Loot boxes elsewhere

Loot boxes have been a source of controversy across Europe.

In Belgium, the products have been banned since 2018. The Netherlands attempted to ban the feature, but a court ultimately overturned this ban. Spain considered banning loot boxes entirely, but instead opted to ban them only for minors.

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