Published: Fri, November 30, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

USA consumer watchdog to investigate video game loot boxes

USA consumer watchdog to investigate video game loot boxes

The American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday joined the ongoing battle of attrition between regulators and game developers over the thorny topic of loot boxes. Democratic senator Maggie Hassan issued an official request for the investigation during a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing on November 27.

Simons promised that his commission would "undertake this project and keep the committee informed about it". "Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling", the ESRP told Polygon.

There's no telling how long it will take the FTC to investigate loot boxes or, if it agrees that they need to be regulated, how it will do so. It's still early days.

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The report opens with a definition of loot boxes as "a broad concept extending to any model that provides a consumer with the option of making small purchases within a game or other application", using either real money or "game points". Now we may get some resolution to the question of "Are loot boxes a gateway to gambling?" here in the States.

Belgium Commission has already conducted their investigation and found that loot boxes are gambling and have required many games to remove their loot boxes from the titles; one of the titles effected is Blizzard's Overwatch. Other countries, such as Japan and Belgium, were choosing to bring in legislation when it came to keeping loot box content under control, so overspending wasn't possible.

"Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smart phone games to the newest, high budget releases", said Hassan, "Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022".

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Why parents would sign off on these loot box purchases wasn't made clear.

Still, whatever these companies have done to ease the negative reaction to loot boxes doesn't appear to be enough.

The game industry's trade group in Washington, the Entertainment Software Association, said Tuesday that loot boxes can enhance players' experiences.

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This is particularly concerning-especially from a regulatory standpoint-when loot boxes make their way into kid's games. "They can enhance the experience. but have no impact on those who do not".

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