The EU have voted to push for reform in the videogame industry, backing a report that takes aim at everything from loot boxes to human rights violations tied up with gold-farming. The report includes calls for better parental control options, “harmonised rules” compelling sellers to show more information about game content, and a clamp down on third-party skin gambling.
Those are all laudable goals, but time will tell how much change this actually amounts to.
The report was led by MEP Adriana Maldonado López, who said it “highlights the positives of this pioneering industry, but also social risks we need to bear in mind, like the impact of gaming on mental health”. Many of the recommendations are targeted at protecting children, with López calling for “strengthened consumer protection with a specific focus on minors.”
Endorsing the report means that the EU will now take further steps, though for the most part that doesn’t mean they’ve decided on any specific actions or new legislation. According to GamesIndustry.biz, the Commision (the EU’s executive body) will now, for example, “analyse the impact of loot boxes and prompts to make in-game purchases, taking action if necessary, as well as investigating whether gold-farming can be linked to financial crimes and human rights abuses”.
The strongest commitment I can see is the report’s call “to put an end to illegal practices allowing anyone to exchange, sell or bet on in-game and third-party sites (for skin betting)”. That makes sense, seen as the practice constitutes illegal unregulated gambling.
They also want the PEGI rating system to play a greater role, and for the Commision to “consider enshrining it in EU law to make PEGI its Code of Conduct the mandatory age-rating system for all games in the single market”. Currently PEGI is a legal requirement in some countries (including the UK, despite it no longer being in the EU) but not others.
Like López said, the report doesn’t just condemn elements of the games industry – it also asks the Commision to devise a “European Video Game Strategy” that will help the industry “unlock it’s full potential”, whatever that means. Hopefully more than creating a European online video game award, which they provide as one concrete suggestion. They also voted to boost their games industry investment and involvment in a seperate resolution last November.
There’s plenty I haven’t mentioned, and there’s a draft version of the report itself on the EU’s website – but you’re probably better off checking out GamesIndustry.biz’s roundup at the bottom of this article.
It’s good to see the EU talking the talk on better regulation and consumer protection, but I’m sceptical about how much it will mean in practice. Remember when they declared we could all resell our Steam games, back in 2012?
There’s also the small matter of my country not being in the EU anymore, meaning game companies won’t have to abide by any potential EU legislation when it comes to their UK operations. They do still have to contend with UK regulators, who six months ago threatened legislation against companies that don’t improve parental controls in games with loot boxes.