Video games popular among kids would be prohibited from offering “loot boxes” or randomized assortments of digital weapons, clothing and other items that can be purchased for a fee, under federal legislation to be introduced by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.).
Hawley’s Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act takes aim at a growing industry revenue stream that analysts say could be worth more than $50 billion — but one that increasingly has triggered worldwide scrutiny out of fear it fosters addictive behaviors and entices kids to gamble.
Hawley’s proposed bill, outlined Wednesday, covers games explicitly targeted to players younger than 18 as well as those for broader audiences where developers are aware that kids are making in-game purchases. Along with outlawing loot boxes, these video games also would be banned from offering “pay to win” schemes, where players must spend money to access additional content or gain digital advantages over rival players.
“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 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.”
Offering one “notorious example,” Hawley’s office pointed to Candy Crush, a popular, free smartphone puzzle app that allows users to spend $149.99 on a bundle of goods that include virtual currency and other items that make the game easier to play.
A spokesman for the game’s publisher, Activision Blizzard, declined to comment.
[Is your pregnancy app sharing your intimate data with your boss?]
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction,” Hawley said. “And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions.”
Purchases made within games — often called “micropayments” or “in-app purchases” — have come under scrutiny in recent years, in part, because children often use their parents’ credit cards or other payment methods to rack up charges that can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Parents have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that such charges often happen without their permission or end up being much larger than they expect. A federal court in 2016 found that Amazon unfairly charged parents for purchases their children made while using apps that were marketed as “free.” (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Loot boxes, which can be bought or offered as rewards for achieving certain goals within a game, also have come under fire over concerns that they encourage addictive behavior, especially by children. Like slot machines, loot boxes offer visual stimulation — often through an explosion of colors and other animated action — along with what psychologists call “variable rewards,” meaning outcomes that are better or worse depending on seemingly random factors.
Fearing the risks of addiction, regulators in Belgium, Japan and China have taken aim at loot boxes and other in-game microtransactions over the past year, resulting in some video-game companies pulling their titles from entire markets to comply with local restrictions.
[Why this company is spending billions to get parents to play more video games]
The Entertainment Software Association, a top lobbying group for the video game industry, countered by pointing to other countries, including Ireland and Germany, that “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,” Stanley Pierre-Louis, the group’s acting president, said in a statement.
U.S. 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. In the nation’s capital, FTC Chairman Joe Simons in November committed the agency to looking into loot boxes, though he later declined to detail in a letter to Congress if the commission had opened any investigations targeting specific video games or their practices.
The pledge came in response to Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan (N.H.), who said the practice of paying for random loot had a “close link to gambling.” Instead, the FTC said months later it would convene a policy workshop in August to study the “techniques used to market loot boxes and whether minors are becoming addicted.”
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. The proposal gained early support Wednesday from groups that advocate on behalf of parents.
“Tricking kids into spending money while they play games is unacceptable and should be illegal,” said Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media.
These days big games seem to be nothing but loot boxes, microtransactions and other scummy shit like that.
Whatever happened to the "you buy a full game, you get a full game". Today its "we overhype a game, you buy it and you get it completed maybe six months after the launch day if youre lucky, and btw its full of this micro shit, which you need to buy, unless you wanna grind months on end. Have fun! ".
Yep, greed happened. Perhaps another game industry crash is imminent...
This is a huge leap in video gaming.
Microsoft Project Scarlett: Next-generation Xbox console unveiled at E3 | Daily Mail Online
It's impractical for users to keep buying the newest system. When they came out with the Xbox One a Microsoft spokesmen said they don't want to leave anyone behind as far as being pushed into purchasing a new system. According to what you wrote they must have the same logic as the cell industry in regards to making money.I've been a big fan and supporter of Microsoft and have had an Xbox since the original 360, but a couple things about this really baffled me... First, they were really pushing digital games, so much so that they released a completely disc-less Xbox One S. In my opinion, this is mixed. Not everyone is going to have a steady enough internet connection to depend on downloading games, especially if you can't depend by location, although now even physical games require a download update that's bigger than most older Xbox 360 games were in totality... So I figured the new generation consoles would continue this, but I suppose it's better they don't - but does it not render the very recently released discless version of Xbox One kind of pointless now..?
Second, Phil Spencer did an interview, "Spencer also spoke about how Microsoft doesn't necessarily need you to buy Project Scarlett. 'The real money is made in software and services,' Spencer pointed out. 'So if you're already invested in the Xbox ecosystem, say if you already own any of the Xbox One family of consoles, Microsoft isn't overly concerned about if you upgrade to Scarlett.'"
Xbox Scarlett At E3 2019: Phil Spencer Talks Disc Drives, Future Generations, And More
Now obviously they still want to do well in sales when it comes to the new console(s) (apparently two models will be released) but something I always thought would be a good opportunity is a console with upgradeable parts - akin to a gaming PC, and I thought for sure Microsoft would be the first to think of it and act on it. And this quote makes me wonder why they didn't do just that, if they're more invested in the "Xbox ecosystem", and just released the Xbox One X not too long ago which in itself is very impressive, why not just make a console that is beefy in it's base model, such as the X, but has upgradeable parts? They would probably make more money over time this way as well in the long run. Of course, there are probably many complications to do with this but just a thought.
EA tells UK Parliament loot boxes are 'quite ethical'Video game loot boxes could be outlawed under new bill.
With loot boxes receiving heavy scrutiny lately, EA has come up with a novel explanation for what the controversial game mechanic should be considered perfectly legal. Appearing before the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, EA's vice president of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins insisted that loot boxes aren't akin to gambling but are instead "surprise mechanics" like Kinder Eggs, the popular chocolate candy with toys inside.
During the hearing, Hopkins also pushed back on the idea that loot boxes have any connection to gambling. "We think it's like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and like the element of surprise," she explained. EA's representative at the hearing went so far as to say that loot boxes are "actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people."
EA's decision to stand firm with loot boxes (though the company won't call them by that name) comes despite a considerable amount of pushback. Regulators in Belgium and The Netherlands have taken action to limit certain types of randomized loot boxes, which has led EA to stop selling FIFA currency and limit game mechanics in some regions to avoid penalties. With the US and EU starting to scrutinize loot boxes as well, EA's defense of the practice is about to be put to the test.