As his tenure draws to a close, Alberto Garzón, Spain’s Minister of Consumer Affairs, is not going quietly! Throughout his four years in office, Garzón has been a vocal critic of various industries, particularly gambling and video game loot boxes. Even with his impending departure from the government, Alberto Garzón isn’t holding back, as he recently launched what could be the Ministry’s final advertising campaign. With nearly €250K (US$273,625) of taxpayer funds at his disposal, he’s once again targeting video game loot boxes.
Alberto Garzón: Taking a jab on gambling and loot box video games
These loot boxes have been a constant focus of the government agency, as they offer players a chance at potential rewards within the game. However, the catch is that players often don’t know what they’ll receive until after purchasing the loot box, leading to concerns that this practice resembles gambling. Alberto Garzón firmly supports this stance, as he believes loot boxes can become a gateway to other forms of gambling, especially for minors.
In the video game industry, loot boxes are widely prevalent, particularly in titles with strong multiplayer components. According to the Ministry, slightly over half of mobile games and 35% of major computer games incorporate loot boxes. The department further points out that almost 30% of Spanish minors aged 11 to 17 engage with loot boxes or other in-game mechanics, such as FIFA Ultimate Team player packs. The Ministry asserts that starting early engagement with games of chance can be a significant predictor of potential gambling problems in the future.
Criticisms arise on “absurd” attack
However, some experts challenge this view, noting that there is no concrete evidence to support the link between loot box use and problem gambling in youth. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology last year indicates that the mechanisms underlying this relationship are not entirely clear.
Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is determined to invest in anti-loot box awareness promotions. The campaign will include TV advertisements, social media content, online radio promotions, and various images designed by the winning bidder.
The Ministry aims to “inform without alarm about what [loot boxes] are” and to demonstrate the potential effects of using loot boxes on both experienced and novice gamers. However, this is not the first time the Spanish government has attempted to regulate loot boxes. Last year, a bill was proposed to ban loot box advertising between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and prohibit minors from purchasing them. Unfortunately, the proposal failed to receive legislative approval.
Yet, the rejection didn’t close the door entirely, as there is a possibility the measure could be revisited in the future. With Spain undergoing a shift in its political landscape, rumors circulate that the government may disband the Ministry of Consumer Affairs entirely. Alberto Garzón’s imminent departure might foreshadow larger changes on the horizon.
As the political scene evolves, the fate of loot boxes in Spain remains uncertain. For now, Alberto Garzón’s parting shot at the gaming industry serves as a reminder that the debate surrounding loot boxes is far from over. Only time will tell what the future holds for the gaming landscape in Spain and beyond!
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