FTC To Host Public Workshop On Loot Boxes, Could Be Exploring Legal Action

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The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reportedly plans to host a public workshop on loot boxes, but declined to comment on whether it is conducting any formal investigation.

Variety reports that a letter from FTC chairman Joseph Simons to Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) revealed the workshop, in response to a letter Hassan had written expressing her concern about the practice. Simons noted that he cannot reveal any legal action underway that isn't already public, but stressed that the FTC has other tools available.

"For example, we are currently planning a public workshop on loot boxes for later this year as one non-law enforcement option," he wrote. "A workshop could provide a forum for stakeholders representing wide-ranging perspectives, including consumer advocacy organizations, parent groups, and industry members. It also could help elicit information to guide subsequent consumer outreach, which could include a consumer alert."

In a statement, Hassan praised the workshop as "a step in the right direction," but emphasized that the FTC should keep working with various stakeholders "to ensure that meaningful improveements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections."

Last year, Hassan also wrote a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) asking it to look into the practice of marketing loot boxes to children, and to formalize best practices for microtransactions. Shortly after, and amid mounting pressure from other advocacy groups, the ESRB announced it would label games with in-game purchases.

This workshop could be a sign that the controversy over loot boxes and microtransactions is far from over. 2018 marked a big shift in how the industry treated loot boxes. Following the launch of Star Wars Battlefront 2, concerns were raised regarding loot boxes resemblance to gambling, especially in games targeted towards minors. Some in the industry are pressing for change, though many feel it should come from self-regulation.

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betty_lim1979

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Edited By betty_lim1979

https://www.fanatical.com/en/bundle/festival-mystery-bundle

They should also look on this.

Recently a lot of store like to come out this kind of "gamble bundle"

A lot of people keep buying and hope to get AAA title with that price. Same concept as loot boxes.

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Jinzo_111887

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Edited By Jinzo_111887

@betty_lim1979: And that's why I didn't bother with PS+ back in the PS3 era. I really am disappointed in it now that Sony's trying to shove it down people's throats by requiring it for online play as you don't know well in advance what games they're giving you over the course of the next year, meaning anything beyond the one month plan is a gamble.

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StickyJr1

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How do loot boxes differ from buying packs of sports, Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering cards? Those all offer a random chance at cards in a limited set and often result in the people collecting those sets of cards having multiples of many cards in the sets.

The only substantial difference I'm aware of is that the games with loot boxes usually don't offer anything in the loot boxes that you can't get by spending enough time playing the game to unlock it. I'd consider that an advantage over trading cards.

Barring any significant difference between trading cards, which are very clearly not considered to be gambling, and loot boxes, then the hubbub and government involvement is unwarranted.

It seems obvious to me, but if you don't like the value proposition of loot boxes, don't buy them.

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BarcaAzul

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I see this as a positive step.

Not everyone can control how they manage these things, especially kids

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lion2447

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Edited By lion2447

Hopefully this will lead to some sort of restriction on predatory lootboxes. Obviously self-regulation has failed as lootboxes simply generate too much money for the companies that use them. They have become way to lucrative not to use them because no matter how many people complain, lootboxes continue to work. Basically it's the addictive drug of videogames.

I didn't complain as much when they were limited to free games. Those games should have some expectation that they want to generate money somehow, but to introduce them to full price games is just going way to far. Also, having the lootbox as the core of the game with the game developed around the lootbox is really going to far.

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Thanatos2k

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They're gambling. Classify them as such. Automatic AO rating for any game with the ability to spend real money on loot boxes.

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Jinzo_111887

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@Thanatos2k: Agreed. That would actually damage loot boxes big time as Nintendo and Sony don't allow AO rated games on their systems. I remember reading Microsoft's the same way with the Xboxes, but I can't find a link to that off hand.

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