Loot Boxes Could Become Illegal In US If New Bill Passes
A US Senator has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of loot boxes in games played by minors.
US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced he is introducing a bill that would potentially bar the sale of loot boxes in certain video games. If enacted, Hawley's bill, called The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, would ban loot boxes and "pay-to-win" microtransactions in titles targeted at or popular among minors, likening the business model to addiction.
"Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids' attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits," Senator Hawley said in a statement. "No matter this business model's advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices. When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn't be allowed to monetize addiction. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences."
Hawley cites the popular mobile title Candy Crush Saga as an example, as it allows players to purchase a $150 "Luscious Bundle" to make the game easier, though it is certainly far from the only title to offer these kinds of spending options. A large number of mobile games are designed to encourage microtransactions, and many of today's most popular PC and console games, including PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Rocket League, and Overwatch, give players the option to purchase loot boxes that contain a randomized assortment of cosmetic items.
Hawley's bill will first need to pass the Senate and then the House of Representatives before potentially becoming a law, but this isn't the first time US lawmakers have taken aim at the practice. Last February, Hawaii state representative Chris Lee put forward a bill seeking to limit the sale of video games with "gambling-like mechanisms" to people under the age of 21. Other countries have also undertaken investigations into whether or not loot boxes constituted gambling.
Follow Hawley's announcement, the Entertainment Software Association released a statement in response to the proposed legislation. "Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents' hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls."
Loot boxes have been a point of controversy in the industry for many years. 2017's Star Wars Battlefront II, for instance, garnered a lot of criticism and backlash for the way it initially incorporated microtransactions, effectively tying them to your progression. In response, publisher EA removed all loot boxes from the game just prior to launch, but that didn't help stem the push for anti-loot box legislation.