Australian Government's Loot Box Inquiry Is Now Accepting Public Submissions

Image: Blizzard

After conflicting opinions at the state level, loots boxes are now firmly in the federal government's cross hairs, with an inquiry into the practise underway. We'll have to wait until September for the results, but until the end of this month, we're free to submit our thoughts.

Australian Senate Inquiry Into Loot Boxes Will Report By September 17

Following notice of a motion submitted by the Australian Greens yesterday, the Australian Senate has supported a move to have the Environment and Communications References Committee investigate the use of loot boxes in video games.

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A low-key page with all the (admittedly brief) details, entitled "Gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items", can be found on the Parliament of Australia website.

If you're wondering what the inquiry will be looking at specifically, here's a refresher:

The extent to which gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items, sometimes referred to as 'loot boxes', may be harmful, with particular reference to:

(a) whether the purchase of chance-based items, combined with the ability to monetise these items on third-party platforms, constitutes a form of gambling, and;

(b) the adequacy of the current consumer protection and regulatory framework for in-game micro transactions for chance-based items, including international comparisons, age requirements and disclosure of odds.

Now, if you want to fire through a submission, you'll want to read up on the process first. Then, you'll have to create a My Parliament login, if you don't have one.

Alternatively, you can email or post your submission:

You can submit by email, but please be aware that this is not an automated process and it may take longer for you to receive an acknowledgement that your submission has been received.

You can email your submission to the committee secretariat or to [email protected]

And the postal address:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Submissions will be accepted until July 27, so you have plenty of time to get your thoughts in order.

Gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items [Parliament of Australia]


Comments

    We need to drown out all the fucking apologists for this naked exploitative greed that takes advantage of all the same psychological levers as gambling does

    It ruins the game industry and adds NOTHING to the game experience besides ruining balance for the sake ohf microtransactions and lootboxes

    Randomised purchased items especially in a lootbox is the same fucking psychological manipulation as gambling

    We need to drown all the apologists for this BULLSHIT who dont care about how exploitative it is especially of younger audiences and who simply want to be able to buy their way to the top of a games leaderboards

      Like at E3 Electronic Arts apologise for loot boxes in Star Wars battlefront (the game that pushed the world too far), promised Anthem will not have loot boxes... and spent the rest of the show showing Loot Box Sports Titles and a bad Mobile Phone gatcha game that danced on the corpse of Westwood. It was horrendous.

      They just push their customers to the limit, roll back if the heat is on... and then wait a few releases to try again when their sharecprice bounces back.

        Doesnt Battlefront still have lootboxes? I thought they just dropped the monetisation of it, not the boxes themselves. Havent played the game myself, so happy to be wrong, but I thought they were still there.

        If they are, BF2 isn't out of the firing line yet.

        Sports titles are a strange one though. Nobody's targeted anger at them over this, they seem a natural fit.

          You're being ridiculous.

          Read the damn article before making these comments. They're looking at monetisation of chance-based digital products. Not jumping underneath a [?] in Mario and hoping you get a mushroom.

          BF2, for all the hate it got, is actually now a great implementation and a solid game. No-one is arguing against loot boxes when they're a free reward you get every level... the issue only arises when you try to manipulate your customer into purchasing them, at which point they become gamble boxes.

      I think that is the key point we need the government to understand:

      Loot boxes .. "takes advantage of all the same psychological levers as gambling does"

        Take the money out of it, that psychology is still there. The value being risked doesn't need to be real world money, it can just be the time invested.

      I worry they'll go too far. You can take money out of things, and that same psychological manipulation is still there. There was a story last week about a study they referenced. The study used 5 pretty good criteria, and of the AAA games they looked at, 45% (10 of 22) ticked all 5. 11 others ticked 4 of 5, so wheres the answer? The list isn't anywhere near complete either.

      The psychology is there in so many games, and they target so many different audiences, that the solution isn't straightforward. With politicians involved, its not hard to see rules that go far beyond where we expect them to. Its why we still get games refused classification, even with an 18+ rating.

      Sports games tick all the boxes. As do various offline games. Super Mario Odyssey has lootboxes, so where does that sit?.

      I'm not against rules on this, but given what needs to be done to get rules in place, I worry that any rules wont have the proper attention to detail to address the issues properly, or go way too far.

      How would people feel if Super Mario Odyssey got an 18+ tag, or offline games where the advantage is against the computer? Sports games?

        I don't care. Ban them.

        Developers will quickly react and patch this trash out when they're losing money.

          Good example of what I worry about. Your 'solution' does nothing to solve the problem, and only hurts us as gamers. Most of which are adults more than capable of making decisions for themselves.

          Do you really think our market is big enough to make them change the games? Its not hard to decide just not to sell here, given theres no monetisation post sale.

          Alternatively, you have a market that is handicapped in any online play, forcing gamers to fake their location and hide the depth of the problem.

          Great solution, Einstein. You've just made the problem worse.

            Honestly, you're argument sucks. Mario didn't have loot boxes, and a game like Shadow of War (a single player loot box game) was a particular low point.

            I can understand that a corporation just wants to suck as much money up as possible - but I'm no longer okay with hobbyists themselves timidly accepting it out some some weak-as-**** fear that publishers will no longer grace countries who stand up to their BS with their products anymore.

            Anyway, I'm sure you've done your research and know that all pre-legislative discussion worldwide has been focused on whether games meet a number of criteria before being considered as gambling.

            As much as games like Overwatch might utterly disgust me with their "hey kids - give us your money and you might get an EPIC skin!" slimeball antics - I can't see them making the list yet. Which sucks.

              I probably got it wrong with Mario Odyssey, my bad. It doesnt change that theres a chance plenty of other games could get caught up in this that dont deserve it.

              I'm not arguing against you by the way, dial back the hate a bit. I'm just saying that the system that will make this decision is made up of politicians with their own agenda, and that could be bad. Why is there such trust in them to get this right?

              It doesnt take much to see the Nick Xenophon Team demand tougher rules before they vote yes in the senate (this WILL need independents votes to get through), and make it 4 out of 5 criteria. At that point, too many games people dont see as a problem start getting flagged.

              Banning all games with lootboxes doesnt change the issue either. And again, just makes the problem worse as people go underground to play these games. You're talking about the biggest games in the world, people will still try to play them, and if they're handicapped because of local laws, they'll do what they can to get around those laws.

                Fair enough - point taken.
                Apologies for getting riled up. The whole loot box issue really gets under my skin.

                Random loot box items, nickel-and-dime microtransactions, live services, online only. And until recently, it felt like people were okay with publishers going down this path.

                It feels good to see the greediest publishers cop a serve. It's honestly reached the point where I'm comfortable to see the Government, an equally big jerk, step in and make their lives difficult. Which is sad.

                Anyway, apologies for the vitriol.

    Here’s my submission: They’re fucking bullshit.

    I wish it was "All Microtransactions". I think even some non-loot box games are herrendous in their gating and difficulty curves, their ingame advertising, and their exploitation of consumers.

    Well its a start, that said ACCC should of investigated this years ago instead of waiting for inaction from gambling authorities who dont think its their jurisdiction (but promise to keep an eye on it).

      If it is gambling it isn't in ACCC's authority. I though half the point was to define what they are.

        Well the ACMA and the state gambling authorities all declared it wasn't online gambling by their definitions (which I agree) and not in their jurisdiction. It should of defaulted to ACCC and investigated for their exploitive practices years ago.

        At its heart the Gambling laws are a hybrid consumer protection and industry protection law... it protects consumers and industry equally. It makes the transaction clear with defined rules, dispute handling and clearly stated rules like presenting risks and rewards, fair play with no discrimination, protects children and vunerable consumers, and has a code of conduct.

        A good Microtransaction law would be a consumer protection and software industry protection law... even if you exclude the AAA loot boxes, their are a loot of cons/scams in mobile phone stores and its unregulated practices are abusing customers, unfair play (Activision even patented matchfixing), extorting consumers and making consumers afraid to spend money.

    Thanks. Probably will draft up a submission this coming weekend. References are a bitch.

      I think I will be referencing Marc Whipple, aka Video Game Attorney, he wants loot boxes regulated but isnt anti-loot boxes or anti-corporate. Throw in a few kotaku and ABC articles for Australian content and maybe a youtube essay.

      Reference the belguim and netherland rulings too. May also reference the crappy replies I got from the PM, ACB, ACCC and ACMA... they all either missed the issue due to jurisdiction or deflected to our poor laws

    Also, I would like the Senate to look at the micro-transaction revenue for loot boxes.

    Its surprising that most micro-transactions are paid for through online store fronts who use offshore tax havens, so they are paying 1 cent to the dollar in Australia. Apple, Google, Sony, Microsoft, Valve, Nintendo.

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