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Peter Honer

2019 has seen loot boxes remain a prime target of concern for regulators, legislators and industry bodies alike, yet despite the work carried out in the Gambling Regulators European Forum in this regard, there have been no substantial efforts to develop a common EU response to date. This article aims to argue that such inaction at a European level is unsatisfactory from both the perspective of the European consumer and games companies alike, while highlighting that any broad regulatory attempts to limit loot boxes to date should be viewed with scepticism.

Having examined the three main approaches that could form the basis of a common EU response (gambling law, self-regulation and consumer law) that could deal with some of the issues that national fragmentation in the field have presented to date, it is submitted that a hybrid system, which draws together principles from these three main approaches, can strike the right level of balance between protecting innovative monetization systems for developers, whilst safeguarding consumers from practices deemed to be ‘predatory’.

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Leon Y. Xiao

Loot boxes represent a popular and prevalent contemporary monetization innovation in video games that offers the purchasing player-consumer, who always pays a set amount of money for each attempt, the opportunity to obtain randomized virtual rewards of uncertain in-game and real-world value. Loot boxes have been, and continue to be, scrutinized by regulators and policymakers because their randomized nature is akin to gambling. The regulation of loot boxes is a current and challenging international public policy and consumer protection issue. This article reviews the psychology literature on the potential harms of loot boxes and applies the behavioural economics literature in order to identify the potentially abusive nature and harmful effects of loot boxes, which justify their regulation. This article calls on the industry to publish loot box spending data and cooperate with independent empirical research to avoid overregulation. By examining existing regulation, this article identifies the flaws of the ‘regulate-loot-boxes-as-gambling’ approach and critiques the alternative consumer protection approach of adopting ethical game design, such as disclosing the probabilities of obtaining randomized rewards and setting maximum spending limits. This article recommends a combined legal and self-regulatory approach: the law should set out a minimum acceptable standard of consumer protection and industry self-regulation should strive to achieve an even higher standard.

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Daniel James Harvey

Loot boxes are an important form of monetization in the Video Game Industry (VGI). Loot boxes became controversial since the release of Star Wars Battlefront II in 2017 causing many jurisdictions to investigate loot boxes as a form of gambling. This article will highlight how loot boxes might be classified as a form of gambling in the UK under the Gambling Act 2005 but will examine alternate jurisdictions for guidance on the stipulation of ‘money's worth’ in section 6(5)(a) of the Gambling Act 2005 and whether money's worth has to be a quantitative amount or a more intrinsic value. This article will also examine soft law approaches in managing the loot box issue such as Self-Regulation and Corporate Social Responsibility. However, from this article one can see that the loot box issue is far from being solved and the larger issue of predatory monetization arises. This indicates even if the loot box issue is solved, users might still be harmed by the VGI using other monetization methods which are predatory and addictive.

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Gaetano Dimita, Jon Festinger, Yin Harn Lee, Michaela MacDonald and Marc Mimler

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Jiahong Chen

This insightful book provides a timely review of the potential threats of advertising technologies, or adtech. It highlights the need to protect internet users not only from privacy risks, but also as consumers and citizens online dealing with a highly complex technological setting.
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Edited by Roland Vogl

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Edited by Roland Vogl

This state-of-the-art Research Handbook provides an overview of research into, and the scope of current thinking in, the field of big data analytics and the law. It contains a wealth of information to survey the issues surrounding big data analytics in legal settings, as well as legal issues concerning the application of big data techniques in different domains.
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Marijn Sax and Jef Ausloos

This article investigates the ethical and legal implications of increasingly manipulative practices in the gaming industry by looking at one of the currently most popular and profitable video games in the world. Fortnite has morphed from an online game into a quasi-social network and an important cultural reference point in the lifeworld of many (young) people. The game is also emblematic of the freemium business model, with strong incentives to design the game in a manner which maximizes microtransactions. This article suggests that to properly understand Fortnite's practices – which we predict will become more widely adopted in the video game industry in the near future – we need an additional perspective. Fortnite is not only designed for hyper-engagement; its search for continued growth and sustained relevance is driving its transformation from being a mere video game into a content delivery platform. This means that third parties can offer non game-related services to players within Fortnite's immersive game experience. In this paper, we draw on an ethical theory of manipulation (which defines manipulation as an ethically problematic influence on a person's behaviour) to explore whether the gaming experience offered by Fortnite harbours manipulative potential. To legally address the manipulative potential of commercial video game practices such as the ones found in Fortnite, we turn to European data protection and consumer protection law. More specifically, we explore how the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation and Unfair Commercial Practices Directive can provide regulators with tools to address Fortnite's manipulative potential and to make Fortnite (more) forthright.

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Andrej Savin

This extensively revised and updated third edition of EU Internet Law offers a state of the art overview of the key areas of EU Internet regulation, as well as a critical evaluation of EU policy-making and governance in the field. It provides an in-depth analysis of the ways in which relevant legal instruments interact, as well as comparative discussions contrasting EU and US solutions.