Australia Will Change Classification Rules Regarding Loot Boxes And Gambling

Australia Will Change Classification Rules Regarding Loot Boxes And Gambling

Australia is about to have a very different relationship with loot boxes. The Australian Government has announced it will move forward with proposed changes to minimum age classifications applied to games that feature ‘gambling-like content’.

Spotted by IGN, the changes will apply from September 2024 and will demand that any games released in Australia that feature loot boxes or simulated gambling will be automatically rated R18+, legally restricting their availability to players over the age of 18.

Further, “games containing in-game purchases linked to elements of chance, including paid loot boxes” will be automatically rated M, recommended for players 15 years and older, but not legally restrictive.

The changes will only apply to games released after September 2024 and will not be applied retroactively. The changes were part of a number of recommendations from a classifications review in 2020, published earlier this year and were agreed upon in a recent Standing Council of Attorneys-General meeting.

Changes to our local classification rules are the latest indicator that a stiff breeze is blowing in the direction of video games and gambling reforms here and abroad. In 2022, the UK government announced the result of a two-year enquiry into problems posed by loot boxes and digital gambling in video games, ultimately refusing to introduce new laws and asking the industry to self-regulate (it hasn’t). In 2021, US senators contacted a dozen major game publishers and begged them to do more about the loot box problem (they haven’t). So, progress (as always) is slow, but there is at least an interest among some in the political class in doing something about predatory gambling mechanics in video games.

As IGN correctly points out, Australia is home to the greatest gambling losses, per capita, in the world, a shocking 40 per cent wide of Singapore in second place. It was, and remains, a pretty sobering statistic. While not stamping gambling mechanics and loot boxes out entirely, forcing harder ratings on games that contain them will force publishers to think differently. Quite apart from being useful for parents and players alike, ratings are built into every publisher’s go-to-market plan — if a publisher wants their game to launch in Aus with a rating softer than an M, then its monetisation strategy will need to fit within the appropriate rating.

“The Albanese Government is determined to protect vulnerable Australians from gambling harms – including children who may be exposed to gambling through video games,” said Minster for Communications Michelle Rowland in a statement. “These changes represent another step in our work to modernise the National Classification Scheme so that Australians can make better informed choices about what they – and those in their care – watch, read and play.”

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