Senator to introduce bill banning loot boxes in video games

Microtransaction ban

"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. It covers games that are purposely targeted to younger players, especially those where developers are aware that children are most likely making in-game purchases. PCAGA would make it illegal to give "competitive advantages" to items that can only be obtained with in-app purchases. Other countries, like Belgium and the Netherlands for instance, have moved to include loot box-style monetization under gambling laws and restrict its use that way.

Loot boxes began appearing in video games in the mid-2000s and have grown in popularity since.

Hawley cited Candy Crush as an example of pay-to-win mechanics and microtransactions, using the example of its in-game "Luscious Bundle" loot box, which is worth $149.99. These games are often offered for free, enticing players to download and even offering them a false sense of progression upon initial download before artificially increasing difficulty to induce compulsive purchases. The bill he is proposes specifically targets "games played by minors... whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions", or games playable by children under the age of 18 - a rather broad label that basically encompasses all games.

Most respondents in both groups said they thought loot boxes were a form of gambling.

These rules would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, which would treat the distribution of such games by publishers and online distributors as an unfair trade practice.

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Loot boxes are in-game caches that players typically purchase with in-game currency and that contain random in-game items.

Loot boxes remain one of the most controversial topics in gaming, and now lawmakers in the United States are planning to ban paid loot boxes in titles aimed at kids.

US policymakers also have explored new regulation: States, including California and Washington, have considered their own legislation in recent years, though none of the proposals has become law.

How is the video game industry responding?

The agency would play a key enforcement role if Hawley's bill is enacted, along with state attorneys general, who would gain the ability to bring lawsuits against video game makers. Hassan also took the issue up with the FTC, which announced in February that it would convene a public workshop on the issue later this year.

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