Here’s The Official Games Industry Response To The Four Corners Report

Here’s The Official Games Industry Response To The Four Corners Report
A shot of Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, as introduced in the report. Image: YouTube (ABC / Four Corners)
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Yesterday, the ABC and Four Corners unveiled their investigation into the video games industry, squarely targeting microtransactions and loot boxes in particular. But the production of any lengthy report is always going to leave out some context and detail, and this morning the representatives of the local games industry have tried to address that.

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), which represents game publishers and the wider games industry in Canberra, posted a five paragraph statement on their website this morning. Their CEO Ron Curry was the only representative of the games industry in the Four Corners report and website article, although the full video included footage and an interview from former mobile developer Torulf Jernström, the developer famous for the Let’s Go Whaling presentation on microtransactions.

In IGEA’s response, the group claimed the Four Corners story provided “unbalanced” views and implications, and wasn’t reflective of the positive experience millions of Australians have with video games today. It also said “all major platforms” have controls to limit spending and games’ access to payment systems, including the ability to disable in-game purchases entirely.

Interestingly, the statement also noted that the video game industry has started to disclose the drop rates for “probabilities of randomised items in games” — although that doesn’t really highlight the fact that China’s regulators led the way for this change five years ago, and it’s only in recent years that drop rates have become more open as regulators have pushed for more oversight.

The full statement from IGEA is below.

For decades, video games have been an incredibly popular and enjoyable pastime for those who play them, including two-thirds of all Australians.  The implications and assumptions about games made in the “Four Corners” piece last night are unbalanced and not reflective of the overwhelmingly positive and enjoyable experience the majority of players have when engaging with the many different kinds of games available today.

Through our Digital Australia research series, Australians have told us how video games help their wellbeing. During COVID-19 in particular, people have increasingly turned to video games to stay connected to their family and friends, to keep their minds occupied, to relieve stress, to stay active, to find new ways to learn, and to cope with isolation.  Many people have played video games for the first time during COVID-19 and experienced the positive effects that games can have on their lives.

We are committed to being a responsible industry, and all of us take seriously the role we have to play in mitigating any risk to children, vulnerable people, and players. Our members want players to be in control of the experience they are having, and to be able to make informed choices about the games they play, how they play them, how much (and whether) they spend, and how much time they choose to play.

All major platforms have controls to limit spending and access to credit cards, including the ability to turn off in-game spending entirely. All major app stores further provide specific consumer advice to indicate if a game or app offers in-game spending. There are also games that provide specific tools for players to monitor or limit game play and in-game spending, while some developers have published specific design principles around the use of in-game spending.  The global video games industry has recently taken additional steps to provide transparency through the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of randomised items in games (also called ‘drop rates’).

There are a vast range of tools and settings available in games and on platforms to help players and their parents and carers monitor their game play.  We encourage all players, parents and carers to become familiar with these tools.

If you want to view the Four Corners episode for yourself, a YouTube version of the show is available below.

Comments

  • The report wasn’t talking about the ‘the majority of players’ though are we. It was focussing on the predatory tactics companies use to snare whales that have addictive behaviours similar to gambling addicts.

    EA’s recently leaked report about FIFA and ‘grind money’ and ‘all roads lead to FUT’ prove that not all developers have the players best interests at heart.

    • None of that response from the IGEA had anything to do with Four Corners actual investigations, but you won’t see these money grubbing parasites from the IGEA address the studies that linked these predatory microtransations to future problem gambling (a huge issue when so many children are involved). That’s because gambling is highly regulated and most of these companies aren’t competent enough to hide that they’re re-releasing the exact same Fifa game every year let alone dealing with the gambling regulators.

  • Their is no government regulation, self-regulation or code of conduct on how gave developers use microtransactions.

    Sorry IGEA while their is egregious and exploitative actors in your industry that targets vulnerable players and refuses to be consumer friendly… your failing the industry as a whole.

    The IGEA knows what is wrong in their industry, they know that there are bad apples on both ends of spectrum from the knock-off mobile gatcha games to the AAA sport games that add poker machines to Basketball. IGEA step up to the plate, build customer protection reforms in your industry, fix it or stay quiet.

    Failing to protect your consumers hurts your industry.

  • I’m curious about these white knight companies that limit the amount of money that players can spend in their games. Can’t think of a single gacha title that does so, unless its only for their Chinese releases since it seems to be the strictest market.

    • Besides a few cases of developers reversing and refunding purchases for a bad loot box decision… everytime this has been a public issue has been a result of a lawsuit.

      Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Epic have all added consumer protections/refunds after class action from parents. Not cause of some white knight nobility.

      But actual game developers can charge what they want for whatever they want, the only thing that stops them is either public outrage or drop in revenue from lower sales.

    • Nothing will happen to combat this in this country. These games are a subset of the gambling industry, and they can do whatever they want.

      • Raid Shadow Legends is owned by Aristocrat Leisure (the #1 manufacturer of poker machines in the world).

  • The upside is that all this bullshit probably contributed significantly to the rise of Indy gaming. Any large industry inevitably gets corrupted by corporate greed, it’s an inevitability.

  • Every time we see the IGEA come out swinging against Australia’s backwards-ass attitude toward the gaming industry and censorship, just remember cases like this, where they defend the indefensible – predatory manipulation of the vulnerable.

    They are not ‘for gamers’. They are not even necessarily for dev studios. They are for the industry. IGEA = for the money.

  • Wait, seriously? People are coming out in DEFENSE of the Four Corners piece? The unashamed and flagrantly biased hit piece that so many of us predicted it would be based on their completely biased questionnaire?
    https://www.kotaku.com.au/2020/11/4-corners-is-investigating-people-who-play-video-games-too-much/

    The only thing that actually surprised me about the Four Corners piece was that they didn’t try to pin violence and school shooting on video games again. The whole thing was nothing more the 45 minutes of demonising the industry. I have it on good authority from knowing friends in the industry that they spoke to a number of developers in Australia, and used basically NONE of that footage – because it didn’t sell the fear-mongering VIDEO GAMES BAD angle that they were pushing.

    They painted the entire industry as being predatory and preying on kids, which is grossly biased and disingenuous.

    • What else do you call EA’s behaviour along with the numerous mobile developers us PC gamers don’t know and don’t care about? The industry is filled with predatory scumbags as a self-confessed business strategy to their investors just on the EA front, let alone the behaviour of smaller actors. If the industry doesn’t want to be represented by these companies, they should be doing far more to save themselves when the government is being given more and more incentive to intervene.

      • Right, it’s all the gaming industry’s fault and there is zero expectation that people should have personal responsibility?

        Kids will beg to get microtransaction X, Y or Z, just like they would beg for toys back when we were kids. Kids don’t have credit cards to allow them to buy things, so if the parents aren’t restraining them, then that’s crappy parenting.

        Do I think microtransactions are scummy and designed to get people to spend more? Yes. But I also expect people to take personal responsibility for their actions. The piece painted a picture of EVERY video game being predatory and designed to fleece people of their money. The “why” might have changed tack, but it’s still the same old tune of “video games bad”.

        • No, fuck this. This is like saying it’s everyone’s fault if they get mugged because they should have the strength to overpower their attackers.

          A multi-billion dollar industry has concentrated absurd resources and talent to figuring out how to precisely exploit weaknesses in human psychology for the purpose of convincing people to fall foul of predatory monetization tactics.

          It is by no means whatsoever a ‘fair fight’ and just because some folks have the strength to resist does NOT make it fair to expect everyone to, or to chalk it up to juvenility or a ‘lack of responsibility for their actions’.

          • Pretty much the most succinct summary of the problem that I have ever seen, props.

          • Seconding this response.

            Problem gambling is also associated with genetic dispositions towards it, which means it was never a fair fight when the industry is targeting people who have a disposition towards an illness. It doesn’t have anything to do with a “lack of responsibility for their actions”.

          • Here here.

            People forget gambling laws, are consumer and industry protection laws. They protect both parties from malicious harm and fraud.

            There needs to be a focused law on microtransactions that mandate protections for both consumers and honest developers.

          • Yeah, this.

            “Personal Responsibility” is a massive cop out when you have a multi national network of media companies spending infinite resources to instill Pavlovian responses in children.

            Being on the side of the gaming companies isn’t just licking the boot, it’s deep throating.

          • This whole “people are being exploited” Is literally no different to any other industry or market.

            Banking, Finance, Real Estate, Supermarkets, any corporate business environment.

            If you are dumb, unwilling or unable to self-educate, have a genetic predisposition to whatever the exploitation is then you will lose to some degree. Its happened since the dawn of time, happens in the animal kingdom and will continue.

            Only a lefty ‘everything will be equal if we try’ absurd utopian view thinks that you can regulate yourself into a happy fluffy existence.

          • Pooch, the problem is that children are part of that vulnerable group of people, along with the adults with an illness and it was decided years ago that unregulated gambling is detrimental to wider society. This exact attitude is precisely why we have those laws, because gambling does bugger all to benefit society on the whole and there’s no reason for us to tolerate corporations taking advantage of genetic addictive behaviours when there’s no benefit to those being exploited or society at large. Unlike “banking, Finance, Real Estate, Supermarkets, any corporate business environment” which serve a purpose in society, gambling proponents don’t offer any meaningful services and they should be treated like parasites, because they are parasites.

            If video games companies want to use gambling in their products, they can be regulated by the gambling laws and have all of those obligations (18+, etc.) and then they can keep their loot boxes. Let’s see how many of them opt for it after seeing the list of obligations.

          • Except the other comparison you and others keep drawing is that it’s the equivalent of gambling. To use your own nomenclature, fuck that.

            Gambling has the false promise of “making your money back.” There is ZERO expectation that will occur with microtransactions in video games. People are spending money on a hobby and a pasttime and it is designed purely for entertainment purposes. Yes, there are scummy practices, just like their are scummy practices in PRETTY MUCH EVERY INDUSTRY. I was just today having a discussion where people were whining about the “predatory FOMO practices” of kickstarter boardgames offering exclusivity. Again, just because someone lacks the self control to NOT BUY THINGS THEY DON’T NEED, that’s not the fucking fault of the companies selling those things. Or are you going to blame Ferrari because someone who couldn’t afford one of their cars bought one?

            “”This is like saying it’s everyone’s fault if they get mugged. … Just because some folks have the strength to resist does NOT make it a fair fight”
            I fucking call 100% bullshit on this. Who is holding you down and FORCING to buy a video game? No one. Who is FORCING you pay for microtransactions? No one.
            The bully analogy is bullshit because you are being forcibly coerced when you’re being mugged, but absolutely no one FORCES you to spend money on a luxury item.

            And anyone bringing up kids in the argument has not a fucking leg to stand on, because kids DON’T HAVE CREDIT CARDS. They CAN’T spend money, and the incentives to buy stuff is NO different to anything else kids get blasted with advertising to pester their parents about.

            Yes, fuck microtransactions and loot boxes. I fucking hate them, and I think they’ve made gaming worse for a multitude of reasons. But the fact of the matter is, if people stopped fucking spending their money on them, they would HAVE ALREADY DISAPPEARED. Those people who lack the self control to not waste money on shit they don’t need, have enabled – nay – incentivised the industry to keep pumping out more of the same shit.

          • amstradhero, your take is purely fiction and has no support in any of the literature and studies done on gambling and lootboxes. As far as the outcome is concerned, the same method used to entice people into using poker machines/gambling is the same that’s applied to lootboxes etc. because the same people making the lootbox games are the same people making actual casino games. They already demonstrated that lootboxes can lead to problem gambling (I don’t want to use direct links here so Google “lootboxes problem gambling study” and you’ll find plenty of those studies). Therefore, it should be regulated the the same way as gambling, since it’s the same parasitic behaviour that you can’t acknowledge adds nothing to society.

            Your entire argument of “MUH PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY” does not work at the scientific level when children and the ill/vulnerable are involved, because society already had this discussion and you lost quite a few decades ago. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you need to acknowledge that the wheel was invented for a reason.

          • @louie
            Dude, no. Stop bringing “won’t something think of the children” into this. It’s utter bullshit.
            Again, the kids cannot buy this shit, because they cannot set up that kind of money transfer without their parents enabling it. If the parents are enabling it, then that’s the fault of shitty parenting NOT the video game companies.

            The gambling argument is more valid, but again, gambling offering the (false) dream an actual return on investment, whereas video games is always just pissing money away into digital hats.

          • As transientmind pointed out on the other article, you’re physically incapable of understanding the science connected to the studies or the connections between lootboxes, gambling and undesired gambling behaviours. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need a better argument that can take down the decades of scientific research pointing out the massive societal issues associated with problem gambling and its ilk. If you don’t want to look at the studies because it’ll shatter your fragile reality where you think everyone has a choice in their behaviours, then that’s a character flaw on your part and you can continue screaming into the wind while people call you out.

            As I said before, society already this discussion a very long time ago and you’ve already lost to the research. My suggestion is that you actually read the existing studies (I even provided the search terms for you to look at and vary) and come back with an argument that has a basis beyond hurt feelings and ideology.

          • @louie
            “As transientmind pointed out on the other article, you’re physically incapable of understanding the science connected to the studies or the connections between lootboxes, gambling and undesired gambling behaviours.”
            Oh, we’re going with personal attacks along with previous appeal to authority, and the false equivalency, slippery slope and strawman argument. Why not try to earn a few more logical fallacies?

            I’m fucking done trying to have a debate, because you’re simply not interested in that, you – and transientmind – just want to shout down anyone who isn’t possessed of exactly the same opinion. As he said before: No, fuck this.

    • Not defending the piece, I am calling IGEA out for defending an industry by saying their are practices in place to protect consumers… when its BS.

      Electronic Stores like Apple and Google have limited consumer protections (as mandated by ACCC and US consumer laws) the games industry itself has no consumer protection as standard and openly challenge regulators in every country that try to clamp down on egregious consumer exploitation.

      • Except the controls in place that they listed do exist. Go read IGEA’s piece again.

        The Four Corners piece presented a grossly unbalanced view of the situation. Taken in the context of that piece, their statement provides the balance that was absent in their “journalism”.

        • The controls they list have nothing to do with the standard methods that are meant to be employed by licensed venues to deal with problem gambling behaviours, even though video games are often owned by or involved with casino games companies. If video companies want to play with the big boys, they can be licensed and rated like the big boys with a nice adults only requirement and following the other required regulations.

          • I’d genuinely love to see lootboxes and gacha mechanics classified as gambling and regulated as such – no matter how heavy-handed that gets. (The heavier the better, IMO.) The extra taxation would be welcome, and it’d be restricted to over-18s, which frankly most microtransactions should be.

            It’d hopefully be incentive enough for studios to ditch that bullshit.

  • I don’t have an issue with four corners highlighting loot boxes and predatory tactics per se. But what about the fact that the Australian government doesn’t do enough to support a local industry? We keep hearing about all the concessions given to movie productions in Australia, yet young Australians want to work in the video game industry. Also there was little mention of the toxicity of gaming culture in general which has a chilling effect on many Australians who might want to have a go a streaming games for a living…it was a very narrow focus, when there are larger cultural and economic issues at stake for younger Australians…..

    • That’s not the focus of the piece, though.

      If you’re going to include this problem, then why not that problem? And that one? And that tangential bit definitely related problem?

      All of a sudden you have a meandering mess that tries to do too much and achieves none of it.

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