US Senator Proposes Legislation Banning Loot Boxes, As Well As Other P2W Microtransactions

A turning point in the ongoing monetization schemes for video games.
Have we reached a boiling point in the industry?
Have we reached a boiling point in the industry? Activision-Blizzard

In what could only be described as a momentous occasion, a bill is being introduced motioning a ban for manipulative design in video games played by minors, which include the sale of – you guessed it – loot boxes and microtransactions.

This bill was introduced by Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from the State of Missouri. He announced it yesterday, and since news broke, it elicited various responses from everyone involved in gaming. The legislation, if approved, would basically prohibit the sale of loot boxes in games targeted at children under the age of 18. Likewise, if your game is marketed towards a wider audience and it has loot box mechanics in it, you could end up facing stiff penalties from regulators like the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), doubly so if you knowingly allow persons below 18 to purchase randomized boxes.

Regulator are going to be the ones who determine if a game is being targeted at minors, and this will be in accordance with several indicators already in place, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Of course, subject matters help in this context, as well as the visual content included in the game.

Freemium games will be the ones that will take the brunt of the legislation, seeing as the bill will also target pay-to-win mechanics, outlawing them for minors. Progression systems notorious for offering “time savers,” which can be used to advanced through a game’s content significantly faster, are very much in trouble as they are prime examples of what the legislation will be aiming for.

Multiplayer games that reward players who spend more money by locking content through a paywall are going to be targeted as well. Speaking in a press conference, Hawley notes that when “a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction.”

Loot boxes and microtransactions, while very prominent features in mobile games, are now very much a part of AAA gaming culture. They have infiltrated several big-budget and popular games such as Overwatch, PUBG, the FIFA series, the NBA 2K series, Grand Theft Auto Online and so much more.

While this is good overall first step towards tangible solutions pertaining to loot boxes and gambling addiction, expect to see an uphill battle ahead. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has quickly responded to the proposal by saying that other countries have already ruled out loot boxes as gambling, using various loopholes and terminologies. It remains to be seen if loot boxes and microtransactions can be regulated or will remain rampant. Expect to see our coverage once new info drops.

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