Last week, the House of Lords published a report calling for immediate regulation of video game loot boxes. The relevant aspects of that report were based on evidence from Dr David Zendle, a computer science lecturer at the University of York, who is calling for wider regulation of the entire industry across the UK.
Speaking to Kotaku UK, Dr Zendle said that "the ideal is self-regulation," a system in which the industry "takes its responsibilities seriously, and is responsive to consumer protection issues [...] collaborates on research with independent academics, opens up data to independent scrutiny, and acts strongly and decisively on the basis of credible issues raised." While that may be the ideal, there's little evidence of this happening.
In the absence of self-regulation, Dr Zendle has suggested that the UK games industry could have its own bespoke regulator. Referring to ideas espoused last year in a column for The BMJ, Dr Zendle said that this regulator would be "sensitive enough to [the industry's] specific context and business needs, but also with enough force behind it to make companies take consumer protection issues seriously."
"If [self-regulation] can't happen (and I think we are reaching a point of no return), then we reach a situation where the industry is forced to abide by external input," says Dr Zendle. Exactly what shape that external input would take is a matter for significant debate, particularly given the impact it would have across the industry, but it would mark an improvement over the current setup, in which "industry stakeholders are rarely showing signs of taking [lootboxes and other issues] seriously." Our full interview with Dr Zendle, discussing regulation and the loot box question in the UK, will be published shortly.