Author

Sebastian Schwiddessen

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 The Hague’s district court has ruled that loot boxes qualify as a game of chance under the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act (BGA). The decisive factor in its assessment is the definition of a ‘prize’. For the BGA to apply, not only an element of chance is required, but the prize must represent ‘economic value’. Economic value is considered present if players can transfer the virtual goods involved between individual accounts. In addition, if such…

For some time now, start-ups, health care and tech companies have been experimenting with smaller video games to have people around the world help with categorizing or analyzing big data sets that typically take months or even years to analyze. The idea is that if everybody invests only a few minutes, the work could be done in days or weeks instead of years. A player who participates has to solve a few simple matchmaking or…

The German head regulator for youth protection in online matters (Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media – KJM) issued a press release (German) according to which it has engaged in enforcement action against three Cypriot providers of adult content (pornography). The action by the KJM is the outcome of a long debate and process and might indicate a shift in the regulatory practice vis-à-vis foreign and EU providers, which also has general…

As it is currently being reported in many German news outlets, the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien, “BPjM”) has (upon application) opened proceedings to blacklist the mobile game Coin Master for its in-game monetization model which is allegedly targeted towards minors and would involve gambling-like elements. The game came under scrutiny in the wake of several adverse news articles in well-known German magazines and newspapers for its in-game…

The German State Bavaria has published a draft for a new guideline (Draft JuSchRiL) on the interpretation of the Interstate Treaty for the Protection of Minors (JMStV). The JMStV regulates, inter alia, youth protection matters for online media in Germany (including online video games, mobile games and apps). The new guideline – which clearly serves as a reaction to the ongoing loot box and monetization debate – states, among other things, that “advertisement which is…

The “Market Guardian Experts” organization (Marktwächter) of the Consumer Protection Association Rhineland-Palatinate (“CPA RP”) announced that it has sent a cease-and-desist letter to two mobile game providers, Outfit7 Limited and Green Tea Games Limited, for an alleged violation of child-related advertisement laws. According to the CPA RP, the two mobile games offer in-app purchases for a price of up to 109.99 Euros and promote them with obtrusive pop-up advertising throughout the game. 1. Summary and provided arguments Outfit7 Limited received a warning letter…

In April this year, the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) announced the outcome of its investigation on loot boxes against three major companies from the gaming sector. The BGC found the investigated loot box mechanisms to be in violation with existing Belgian gambling laws by applying a very broad gambling definition (summary and comments here). The BGC also stated that “[g]iven the fact that only four games were examined, the problem might be bigger” and recommended a…

The German consumer association North Rhine-Westphalia (Verbraucherzentrale NRW) announced that it considers numerous terms of service of a leading console marketplace to be in breach with the German law on standard business terms. For this reason, the Verbraucherzentrale NRW sent a cease and desist letter to Sony Europe to stop using the allegedly violating clauses. As an example, the Verbraucherzentrale NRW names clauses which require the user to use his/her pre-paid credit within 24 months to avoid expiration. The Verbraucherzentrale…

One minute ago, at 11 am CET on August 8, 2018, the German classification board (“USK”) announced that it will from now on accept applications for the classification of video games which include swastikas and other so called “nazi symbols”. The decision will most likely be the beginning of the end of an era in which video games which include “unconstitutional” symbols had to be heavily altered for their German release. The decision has significant…

Australia is one of the few countries where video games are still regularly refused classification (RC), even after the R18+ rating was finally introduced in 2013, which allowed for more mature content in video games than the previous highest MA 15+ rating. Additionally, several video game and movie rating decisions are appealed each year to obtain a lower age-rating to be able to reach a broader audience. Recently the Australian Classification Board (ACB) overturned the…