If This New Video Game Loot Box Bill Becomes Law, It Could Shake Up The Industry

Representatives from Hawaii are taking action against "predatory" games in the wake of Star Wars: Battlefront II controversy.

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[UPDATE] A spokesperson for the Entertainment Software Association told GI.biz that providing "greater awareness and transparency about the wide range of in-game experiences" is a never-ending job. The organisation added that it believes self-regulation is the right way forward as opposed to regulations from the government.

"We strongly believe that the industry's robust, self-regulatory efforts remain the most effective way to address these important issues, and that system has a proven and long record of doing so," the representative said.

"Some consumers and parents may have questions about how loot boxes work, and ESA has demonstrated a commitment to providing information to guide consumers, especially parents, in their purchase decisions."

The original story is below.

Lawmakers in Hawaii have put forth a pair of bills that, if enacted, would limit the sale of video games with "gambling mechanisms" to minors and require that loot box odds be disclosed. The bills were introduced into Hawaii's legislature recently by Democrat Chris Lee, who you may remember was the politician who called out Star Wars: Battlefront II for being "predatory."

The first bill is HB2686. It states that video game publishers have recently begun to use "predatory mechanisms" in their games that are "designed to exploit human psychology to compel players to keep spending money in the same way casino games are designed." It goes on to say that things like loot boxes--which are popular and prevalent in games today--are similar to slot machines because they let users pay money for a chance at winning something.

"One common variety of this type of predatory mechanism, known as a loot box, can present the same psychology, addictive, and financial risks as gambling," reads a line from the bill. The document goes on to note that digital stores exist where players can sell the items they acquired through loot boxes and other "gambling-like mechanisms." In turn, this gives players the ability to "effectively cash out their winnings," as they might in a casino, the author wrote.

HB2686 goes on to reference the World Health Organisation's recent announcement that "gaming disorder" is a real mental condition that requires more clinical research. "Mental health experts have raised particular concern about the exposure of youth and young adults to gambling-like mechanisms, which can affect cognitive development and lead to addiction, and to which youth and young adults are particularly vulnerable," reads a line from the bill.

This bill's main focus is to prohibit the sale of video games that include a "system of further purchasing, including randomised reward or a virtual item that can be redeemed to directly or indirectly receive a randomised reward," to people under the age of 21.

The other bill, HB2727, includes much of the same text as HB2686, but it goes further to say that video games with loot boxes should be required to making "certain disclosure[s]" about the odds that players will receive a certain item. More, specifically, this disclosure must be featured "prominently" at the time of purchase and in the game itself when loot boxes appear. If this bill becomes a law, Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, potentially in conjunction with a third-party, may conduct audits on video games sold in Hawaii to ensure that accurate probability rates are disclosed clearly and transparently.

Both bills note that it is not uncommon for video games to get frequent updates after release. However, HB2727 states that "no video game publisher shall at any time modify a game to contain or otherwise permit the inclusion of additional content for which the game was not appropriately labeled at the time of original sale."

In the United States and most other parts of the world, video games generally do not disclose things like loot box odds, though regulators in China recently started enforcing this.

Bear in mind that these bills, if they become law, would only apply to games and gamers in Hawaii, whose population is only around 1.4 million. That being said, lawmakers from other states, such as Washington, have also put forth bills with similar language. Lee told GameSpot in an interview that it will be a combined effort to enact the kind of change he wants to see. Already, Lee tells us that he has seen bipartisan support for these efforts. More significantly, he said other elected officials across the country, including US Senators and members of Congress, have reached out to voice their support.

Battlefront II sold many millions of copies, but it failed to meet EA's sales expectations, a failure that the publisher attributed in part to the controversy over the game's use of mictrotransactions. Just before the game's public launch, EA removed all microtransactions from the game, but they are coming back soon.

If the new bills introduced in Hawaii and Washington, as well as other parts of the country and world, become law, it could significantly impact the world's biggest publishers such as EA, Activision, Take-Two, and others. Just recently, we learned that Activision Blizzard made $4 billion from microtransactions in 2017, while Ubisoft makes lots of money from add-on content as well. Not all of this money comes from loot boxes or what Lee and others might call "predatory" mechanics, but a portion does. So it stands to reason that these companies, and organisations that represent them in Washington--such as the ESA--would want to protect their interests. This is all to say, this is a story that we don't imagine will fade away anytime soon, but will rather pick up steam and debate in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

We will have more from our interview with Lee in the days ahead. Keep checking back with GameSpot for the latest.

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QuietStorm

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These lawmakers should spend all that energy used to spend our tax dollars into making senseless and ineffective laws, such as these, into covering up more their marital affairs and government funding mismanagement or else they're going be the next ones requiring Olivia Pope's and Associates' services to cover them up.

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doty1111

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I enjoy cheeseburgers immensely. The thought of not having cheese on a burger infuriates me! It’s like not using the third shell for its intended use!! Really?! Why would you use that shell to say...I don’t know...to set your keys in! LUNACY!! This type of non cheese having burgers is not only racist against cheeses, it stereotypes hot dogs!

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BarcaAzul

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I think this has been coming. Started in the mobile gaming area and now in full games.

Loot boxes or random prizes are not an issue, but when it changes your ability in a game and put money behind having better chances, then it is like gambling, except you don't gain money.

The principles are the same though.

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dragonsama

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My problem with the ESA statement is that the industry is not self regulating. It's allowed things like Loot crates to run rampant and and now the government is getting involved. the industry needs to come together and end this practice once and for all!

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Zorlac

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I am and always will be fine with loot boxes that have cosmetics only in them. When you start putting guns or items that you need to play the game in them, that's where I see the line being drawn.

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Hyyr

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Be very careful with the legislation, or the USA will end up like Australia- with total censorship. I personally do not like the government telling me what games I can play, or how I can play them.

If anything, the game should indicate that there are loot boxes in the gameplay, so those who do not like them can avoid them. That should be the limit of the government's involvement.

I do not like loot boxes, so I do not buy games in which they appear. Easy enough.

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el_swanno

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@Hyyr:

Total censorship just like Australia, huh? And that folks is where that stereotype of loud ignorant Americans comes from. Congratulations, you’ve just insulted an entire nation that has been America’s closest ally for over a century and made your own country look like a bunch of backward hillbillies in the process. Did you even think before you opened your dumb fucking noise hole?

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Acid_Rush

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If you think about it these loot boxes aren't different to the way trading cards are sold randomly in packages to kids, nonetheless it feels wrong and should at the very least be further regulated, but it should be done internally I believe.

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crunkster64

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@acid_rush: yeah they aren't different too much but you don't buy a 60$ (generally) starter box that has everything you need.

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xNSHD

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Edited By xNSHD

the ESA can go **** its self ofcourse they want to self regulate they have alot to loss if the government start regulating it as they then don't control what they can and can't get away with.

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EdwardNygma

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I am glad they are starting to crack down on this. It is gambling period and needs to go. Corruption at its finest.

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TacticaI

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EA has truly exceeded any and every expectation of their greed. That a state’s government/regulation is on the table is completely above and beyond any annualized release, MTx, or season pass.

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Red_hot_smasher

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I don't think these laws will matter all that much, we'll probably just see something like "loot crates unavailable where prohibited".

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LTJohnnyRico

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Just don't buy them! ... Yeah I get that people do buy them and that's on them .. each to their own .. if someone wants to spend their own money on something let them! Who are we to tell them they can't!

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LTJohnnyRico

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@agravier: It wasnt that bad .. Battlefront 2 wasnt really pay to win .. i played ot at the start and a me and a few friends did pretty well without buying a thing.

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TacticaI

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Edited By TacticaI

@ltjohnnyrico: This issue is more nuanced than that. The real issue here is the gambling and its implications. Of course no one would support this push otherwise. Of course what gamers expect as a result of pursuing this are AAA games that will simply have to revert to other means of making money...like actually being good again.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@TacticaI: Yeah but gambling has been around for ages ... long before video games! and what all of a sudden gamers are concerned for those with Gambling addictions? I don't buy it! What it comes down to is that some people are ok with MTs and Loot Crates etc and others are not .. and the ones that are not want them removed from gaming .. however their is a clearly profitable business model in MTs - for me its about getting the balance right and that's the important bit! Gamers acting like they are concerned all of a sudden for those of us with an addiction is BS!

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xNSHD

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@ltjohnnyrico: yes but 10 year olds arn't allowed in casinos to gamble yet they can buy a game with gambling mechanics. get a grip this is a big issue and if you can't see that your a lost cause and my guess is your one of the whales that these companies prey on.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@xnshd: You guess wrong (unsuprisingly) .. I do not buy MTs and my kids cant buy anything online without our permission .. parental controls .. government legislation is not a substitute for bad parenting! How can 10 year olds go out and buy games .. see many places employing 10 year olds .. wonder how these 10 year olds get their money .. casino? Investment? Hmmmmmm

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aj87

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@ltjohnnyrico: Dont get me wrong, Im usually the first to say that if people want to do something that its not harming anyone, let them do it. BUT...

The problem with this situation is that this is becoming a tendency more and more frequently. Compare games in general how they are today to just some years ago and you will see how much this whole thing increased. What happen to the times when you buy a game and its God damn complete? Or when it had a DLC, it was a truly expansion? If people dont stand out now, more and more games in our near future will be a grind fest unless you open your wallet a few times and also incomplete, unless you pay the bits missing.

To me, this is the the problem, not how things are today, but the tendency.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@aj87: I have been Gaming for Many many years and agree that the practices today are not right - the balance is all wrong. I am all for paying more for games $80-100 if they are complete (All in) etc .. I don't like the idea of MTs and therefore I don't buy them. But we can't just blame the people that do buy them as there is clearly a market there, there just has to be a better balance.

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xNSHD

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@ltjohnnyrico: paying more for games? no $60 is enough companies make enough money as is even without MTX and season passes etc. the people buying MTX are whales and really shouldn't be playing games in the first place because lets be real here if your spending 100's of dollars on MTX to basically progress faster or skip parts of the game then whats the point as your not even playing your just paying.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@xnshd: I dont mind you refusing to pay more .. bit dont complain about MTs then .. you are part of the problem .. you want something fixed bit arn't prepared to pay for it! .. what a surprise!

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LordCrisp

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@ltjohnnyrico: Oh... and you think it's okay that all games turn into a 1000 hour grind fest, where you have to do the same stupid 15min thing over and over again 300 times, just to get yourself a new gun that shoots 15% faster and does 15% less damage?

Except for the problem that it is predatory on both kids and other more or less adictive people, it's also a problem for the general games as we're getting less enjoyful games, because they WANT us to feel like throwing more money at them... It does NOT only hit the microtransaction buying people... it affects EVERYONE

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LTJohnnyRico

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Edited By LTJohnnyRico

@LordCrisp: Except all games are not like that are they? Im playing kindom come Deliverance at the mo and its not at all grindy .. i also play PUBG and thats not grindy either. Yes there are some games that are but if a game doesnt appeal to me I dont buy it! Same with most things in life .. i bought the house I wanted .. the cars I wanted etc .. its not rocket science! And even the Games i play that do have mts in .. like Battlefield 1 .. i still choose not to buy the mts and it doesnt effect my experience!

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LordCrisp

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@ltjohnnyrico: Yeah... because YOU can regulate it yourself... some people can't.

And it's not microtransactions as a whole this is against (although it think it should be)... it's the thing about buying something you don't know what you get out of...

And yeah... in games where it's only visual stuff, I barely care at all... but some people can't stop... and on pure principle I'm against it...

I've never spend money on random microtransactions, and only ever bought quality of life things in World of Tanks and Path of Exile... but just because I can figure out how to manage myself and my money, doesn't mean everybody else can

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LTJohnnyRico

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Edited By LTJohnnyRico

@LordCrisp: Everyone can regulate it themselves .. well mostly everyone .. otherwise wed all be buying up everything thats put in front of us .. and that just isnt the case!

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LordCrisp

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Edited By LordCrisp

@ltjohnnyrico: Oh so gambling addicts also buy every item in a store they see?

Jup... thats how it works... I forgot... I'm sorry, I stand corrected

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LTJohnnyRico

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Edited By LTJohnnyRico

@LordCrisp: So everyone is a gambling addict? .. i think not .. do you know what percentage of Gamers worldwide are gambling addicts? .. or what percentage of people in general are gambling addicts? .. i have been to the casino on many occasions and I always know when to stop as do many others .. its only a minority that has an addiction! And I think that out of all the people who are buying MTs the percentage with a gambling addiction would be very small! Are you a gambling addict? - I have in the past purchased MTs and I sure as hell am not a gambling addict!

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LordCrisp

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Edited By LordCrisp

@ltjohnnyrico: what does that have to do with anything?

Should we just ignore the needs of minorities because they're minorities?

Why make special dogs for blind people, they can just buy an untrained Chihuahua and train them themselfes... theres not that many of them... so the ones that are don't need help... they can just pull themselfes together.

It's there to help the people who susceptible to these problems... not to us who can figure it out by ourselfes.

What does it hurt YOU that it would be written 21+ instead of PG13 on your game...? what does it hurt YOU that they're forced to tell what the odds are of getting the items available.......... what do you loose by these bills?

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LTJohnnyRico

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@LordCrisp: Where did I say we should ignore minorities? We should help people with addiction I am all for that but don't think removing MTs is going to help - having an age rating on a box is pointless! if people want the games they will get them! some sort of medical treatment/therapy is probably going to help those who are addicted in a more practical and better way!

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LordCrisp

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@ltjohnnyrico: so you don't think it's better to be proactive and try avoiding them to get to the point of addiction in the first place....?

Even though being proactive (both by law and otherwise) is both more gentle on the people affected and on both their own and their respective states wallets.

And age ratings must matter, because the big publishers (both with games and movies) goes A LOT out of their way to make sure stuff has a lower rating... Although we're not affected by it here in Denmark, I've also read several places that some stores plainly refuse to have Mature rated games in their store.

And about your "ignore minorities" question... you indirectly said it... you said this law bill was stupid and pointless... government controlly for no reason... which was based on YOU not being a gambling addict and knowing how to control it... these laws should be made, not for you or me, but for the peticular people who it affects... and again... what does it hurt you if these bills gets accepted?

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LTJohnnyRico

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Edited By LTJohnnyRico

@LordCrisp: I think choice is the way forward .. put whatever you like in games and let us choose to support or avoid it .. why take away that choice?

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LordCrisp

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@ltjohnnyrico: it's not being taken away... it's being put a label on that says it has potential gambling like features for real money. Then people are warned, and they can do whatever they want with it... give it and their creditcard to their kids or whatever.... up to themselfes... then at least they're informed

AND... because, when it's not being frowned upon, they build the games to be annoyingly grindy on purpose, to get people to drop money on stupid things.

That's exactly what happened with titles like Assassins Creed Origin, Battlefront 2, Shadow of War and whatever more titles we have that does this already...

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LTJohnnyRico

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@LordCrisp: Do you think having a label on the outside of a casino saying gambling inside would stop people going in?

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F1r3Starter

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@ltjohnnyrico: Yeah, and who are we to tell them that they can't drink when they're under 21 or drive when they're under 16? Oh wait, these limitations are in place because law makers and experts alike think that people of a certain age should be protected from certain things that might cause them harm.

And it's not like everybody who buys these games - say for instance a parent - is totally aware of the concept of loot boxes. So a freakin warning lable might be a good idea. So at least they know that this is a part of the game they're buying for themselves or their child. It's not like the government is calling for a complete ban!

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LTJohnnyRico

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Edited By LTJohnnyRico

@f1r3starter: Yeah because buying games and drinking underage are the same thing .. games already have age ratings! But the purchase of mts is on the consumer .. i choose not to buy others choose to buy .. and my kids spend their pocket money how they please but they can't spend anymore than their allowance and their consoles have parental controls on them .. so its not difficult to manage their spending! So really we are all up in arms over protecting a minority of people who have a serious gambling addiction .. I am all for that, I can appreciate and empathise with that sort of addiction and quite right they should be getting help ... but im not sure that all of the people buying MTs have an addiction! Yes we should protect our kids .. I am a parent .. have 2 kids and as I said above they can only spend what myself and their mother decide they can spend ... being a responsible parent is on us .. not the government!

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PETERAKO

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@ltjohnnyrico: It's no that simple though. Just because I dont want to go to war it doesn't mean my house wont get bombed.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@PETERAKO: Its not war though is it? Its a simple consumer choice .. same as buying anything you can choose not to buy it! I have been gaming for well over 30 years and i can count the times i have purchased MTs on one hand .. so i know no one is forcing me to buy them!

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PETERAKO

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@ltjohnnyrico: Just because you can chew on glass shards and swallow them, doesn't mean everyone can.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@PETERAKO: I dont chew glass .. do you? I just have self control and don't purchase everything that is presented to me .. if you dont have self control I suggest you learn some! Otherwise could be very dangerous/expensive for you! Also as you are one of the people buying the MTs how can you complain? Why are you buying them?

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PETERAKO

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@ltjohnnyrico:

Metaphor 1: Just because I won't buy MTX that doesn't mean that I would remain unaffected or that it might even be up to me. Publishers have started making a habit to strongarm you to buy into microtransactions, either subtly or blatantly.

Metaphor 2: Im tired of listening to people telling me that you need to do this or be that* to circumvent microtransactions. If you are ok going through hoops to enjoy a game that rubs its slimy in game store in your face, then you are lucky and Im jealous, but I am not willing to do that, nor should I be required to.

*Battlefront2 is a prime example. People basically called all nay sayers noobs, that need to learn to play the game, to git gud, which not only is not really that viable, on top of it all it's contrary to the games nature as a broad appeal fan service.

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LTJohnnyRico

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@PETERAKO: But I and many others still haven't and do not purchase MTs .. its not difficult to have self control! also I play Battlefront2 .. my wife bought it me as a gift and I haven't bought any MTs and when they return to the game i still won't .. I can hold my own in the game without them also I don't want to spend any money on the game! .. Self control! .. Simples!

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newbpwnr

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imagine if they banned clickbait

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Thanatos2k

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@newbpwnr: Eddie would be out on the street immediately.

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BankAMG

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Look up the word gamble. Then tell me loot boxes aren’t gambling ???

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Xylymphydyte

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Sometime last year I contacted my local state gaming commission in regards to the legal status of lootboxes, outlined what they were, what you got, how they worked, etc., and they told me that the only thing that stopped them being regulated by their commission was that you didn't get anything of monetary value back that could be sold or traded in the real world, they seemed mildly appalled by the whole situation too, being totally unaware of it.

I would say lootboxes are living on borrowed time at this point, they're truly disgusting machinations.

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