Alberto Garzón, Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs, has ordered his department to draft the first federal controls on loot box interactions.
This mandate follows a year-long investigation by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs into loot box purchases/interactions in video games, specifically assessing their potential risk to underage consumers.
The investigation revealed that in Spain, “35% of video games and 55% of mobile games use loot box features to monetize customers.”
Referencing guidance from the Ministry of Health and Responsible Gaming Council, the investigation suggested that, despite their random nature, loot box interactions could lead to the development of gambling traits and addictive habits among young people.
Last year, Garzón opted not to include loot boxes in the government’s ongoing review of Spain’s federal gambling laws, which focused on ‘youth protections’ and the creation of safer gambling environments.
The investigation cited research by Dr Leon Y Xiao from the University of Copenhagen, who emphasised the need for European governments to “ensure effective regulation of loot boxes due to their potential harmful effects and their structural resemblance to traditional gambling”.
In response, Garzón has called for technical protections to prevent minors from interacting with loot boxes, positioning Spain as “Europe’s pioneer” in safeguarding the video games sector.
The proposed measures include banning minors from accessing gaming stores where they can purchase loot box credits and implementing a registration system that requires age verification.
New rules will also be introduced regarding the advertising of loot boxes and in-game promotions to further protect minors. This is in addition to existing rules that do not prevent minors from buying or playing video games featuring these elements.
Should the government fail to implement effective controls, Garzón stated that Spain should follow Belgium and Japan in outlawing all real-money loot box purchases.
Spain enters a period of political uncertainty as following a wipeout at the regional and local elections in May, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez advanced the country’s General Election to 23 July.