German parliament votes for law that judges games by loot boxes – update

Germany may get legislation this spring that allows the presence of loot boxes in games to be included in the age assessment. The German parliament has passed the bill to protect children from buying incentives in games.

It concerns a renewal of the German law for youth protection, the Jugendschutzgesetzes. The current legislation is twenty years old and needs to be updated. The new version, which has been approved by the Bundestag, states that children should not come into contact with buying incentives in games. The law talks about ‘risks of gambling-like mechanisms’ and that brings games with loot boxes in the crosshairs, writes Der Spiegel.

The law doesn’t literally say that games with loot boxes will be classified as 18+, but a lawyer tells the paper that this is likely the result. Several games that are still considered suitable for children, such as FIFA 21, should only be sold to adults in the presence of loot box-like mechanisms.

The new law is further adapted to the ‘digital age’. No distinction is made anymore between games released on consoles, PCs or smartphones. It also no longer matters whether a game is on a disc or if it is downloaded. In current legislation there are still all kinds of distinctions between different carriers and, for example, video cassettes are discussed.

The law has yet to be approved by the Bundesrat, the federal government of Germany. The law could then come into effect from this spring at the earliest. The updated Youth Protection Act also states that children must be protected from harassment on online platforms and that social media must ensure that young children cannot be found or approached by strangers.

Update, 21:13: The German Bundestag has adjusted its announcement and no longer reports in a new version that loot boxes are by definition no longer allowed in games that are also suitable for children. According to a German blog on gaming legislation, the new law will no longer age the games based on just the content of the game, but will also look at other issues such as communication options, purchasing functions, gambling-like mechanisms and sharing user data. It’s not that games necessarily get an 18+ label if they contain loot boxes, but it can play a role in the rating. Also, such games can be labeled with warnings.