U.S. senator Josh Hawley has introduced a new bill that would ban loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions from video games “played by minors.”
“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. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”
There are multiple games that still use lootboxes, such as Overwatch, Counter-Strike, FIFA, and NBA 2K. These games are popular among both children and adults alike, and the games make huge profits off of their own microtransaction systems. Crawley specifically highlighted Candy Crush and its $150 bundle that people can buy in-app.
In response, the Entertainment Software Association—a video game industry lobbyist group—released a statement to Kotaku noting that many other countries do not consider loot boxes gambling.
“Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling,” ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said. “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.”
This is not the first time that loot boxes have been a point of discussion in the U.S. Senate. Last year, Senator Maggie Hassan asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the practice of video game loot boxes, in order to “adequately protect children and other vulnerable people who play video games.” As a result, the FTC plans to hold a workshop around the topic this August.