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Der Spiegel, one of Germany's most-visited news websites, has reported that the country is on the verge of limiting the sale of video games that feature loot boxes to adults only. The German federal parliament, the Bundestag, has voted to amend the Youth Protection Act with the ruling that video games that contain "buying incentives" or "cost traps" are neither bought nor played by children.
The Youth Protection Act, brought into law some 20 years ago, is potentially changing to address what some see as predatory marketing by games publishers, using modes that encourage the spending of real money on in-game items. These modes include FIFA's long-running Ultimate Team, where packs of unseen players can be bought, and Overwatch, where loot boxes contain new skins and emotes. The proposed amendment needs to be verified by the country's federal council, the Bundesrat, for it to become law.
Loot boxes are already banned in some countries, like Belgium, which told games publishers they couldn't run those services in the country back in 2018 - and if they do, they face a fine of 800,000 Euros. But with Germany the biggest gaming market in Europe, based on revenue, the threat of new restrictions is sure to be a lot more damaging to publishers.
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Social Democratic Party of Germany minister Franziska Giffey told Der Speigel: "We want clear symbols that indicate risks such as violence or cost traps."
Also speaking to Der Spiegel, lawyer Julia Maris commented that the amended Youth Protection Act would restrict modes like FIFA's Ultimate Team to players aged 18 and over. "Online games or other applications that use loot boxes or similar in-game offers would probably be classified with an age rating of 18 and over," she said, adding: "If you violate the guidelines, you can face immense fines."
That doesn't necessarily mean that FIFA can't be sold in Germany with FUT as a mode - but the use of loot boxes in the game may have to be disabled by default, in order for it to pass at a lower age rating. There is also no official confirmation that games like FIFA, which has a PEGI rating of 3 right now, will become 18+, as Eurogamer reports that an original statement about loot boxes, or "cost traps", has been amended to remove the line about deactivating these payment options. So, I guess we'll have to wait and see what the eventual outcome of this is. All eyes on the Bundesrat.
Featured Image Credit: EA, Activision Blizzard