PEGI defends 3+ rating for NBA2K20 despite slot machine imagery in trailer

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UK games certification board PEGI has defended its decision to award NBA2K20 an age-rating of 3+, even though publisher 2K Games released a controversial teaser trailer for the game featuring slot machines.

The trailer (see below) is for NBA2K20’s MyTEAM player-card collection system and comes at a time when loot boxes in games have been put under particular scrutiny regarding whether they constitute gambling aimed at children. As we recently reported, the US games industry body the ESA has announced that it will force publishers (including 2K Games) to reveal loot box odds from 2020 onwards.

Following comments like: “This looks and sounds like I’m watching a casino ad,” and: “This is legit gambling. They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore,” the trailer was taken down from 2K Games’ UK YouTube channel, but it remains on the company’s US YouTube channel.

A complainant about the ad received a statement in response from PEGI since it was made available to view on Reddit. In it, a spokesperson for PEGI said: “We have seen the announcement trailer of NBA 2K20 and noticed the controversy it has caused. We feel it is important to carefully explain when certain content is triggering the gambling descriptor in the PEGI system, but also to show when it does not at this moment.

“It is important to stress that the controversial imagery played a central role in the trailer, but it may not necessarily do so in the game, which has not yet been released. At this point in time, PEGI can only comment on the trailer that has been made publicly available. The trailer includes imagery that is generally known from casinos (wheel of fortune, slot machines). Using this sort of mechanic to select an item, or character, or action by chance is not the same as teaching how to gamble for money in a casino. These differences currently prevent us from applying the gambling descriptor. But we are very aware that it may get too close for comfort for some people, and that is part of an internal discussion that PEGI is having for the moment.”

In other words, PEGI will reserve judgment until it has seen the final game, but it does appear to be undergoing some soul-searching regarding its policy of only “Triggering its gambling descriptor” if a game actively teaches its players how to gamble.

If you’re concerned about PEGI’s age-ratings or want to find out more about its processes, visit the organisation’s website.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.