Australian officials recently announced that from September 2024 onwards, all commercial video games that feature forms of simulated gambling, such as social casino games, will have a rating of R18+, meaning that only individuals over the age of 18 can purchase them.
In addition, any games that feature “in-game purchases linked to elements of chance,” namely in the form of paid loot boxes, will receive an M rating, Games with M ratings are intended to be 15-plus, but are not legally restricted like R18+.
Loot boxes are essentially mystery bundles of goods that players buy with real money in the hopes of receiving something of value for that specific game—it’s helpful to think of them like virtual packs of trading cards.
For example, popular sports games such as NBA 2K or FIFA soccer often offer loot boxes that might contain legendary players or other items such as unique uniforms. Shooter-type games are similar, but those loot boxes offer unique weapons and gear.
Regulators and researchers have become increasingly concerned about the loot box movement, as many believe that it introduces gambling tendencies to kids at a young age. Due to the fact that the boxes often cost real money, parents around the world have expressed concerns about their children repeatedly asking for money to open boxes in hopes of receiving a “valuable” prize, which is reminiscent of most gambling transactions.
Officials said that the new policy will only affect games released after September of next year, and will not apply to existing games.
Raising the minimum age requirements for commercial games that feature gambling-like content was among the many recommendations that came from a review of the country’s classification systems that was released earlier this year.
These updates were approved at the latest Standing Council of Attorneys-General meeting, composed of attorneys general from the federal government as well as each state and territory.
In response to the changes, the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association released a statement saying that it will “continue to work with the relevant government departments to ensure that they appreciate the nuances involved and that there is a clear agreement on where and how these changes will be applied.”