A U.S. senator has announced plans to introduce a new bill which would ban loot boxes as well as pay-to-win microtransaction elements in games. Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri proposed “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act,” a bill which would target games that sell loot boxes and other types of microtransactions to minors. If they make it far enough, these rules would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
Hawley’s announcement specifically highlighted pay-to-win mechanics and loot boxes as the two most abusive practices found in these games played by minors. Candy Crush was specifically mentioned in the press release, a free-to-play game that includes a ridiculously expensive “Luscious Bundle” that comes with a bunch of loot and costs $149.99.
“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits,” Hawley said. “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.”
The senator would go on to say that companies who exploit children that play their game “should face legal consequences.”
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction,” Hawley continued. “And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”
Loot boxes and other transactions which are declared to be predatory by those who oppose them have been addressed in other countries in the past. Belgium outright banned loot boxes and equated them with gambling, a decision which set a precedent for other countries to follow.
The Federal Trade Commission is planning on holding a workshop on August 7th to discuss the issues surrounding loot boxes, so expect more developments on the topics to come from that if not sooner.
The bill is only just now being introduced, so it will be some time until we see an outcome of it. Hawley’s full announcement can be seen here.
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