Loot boxes and microtransactions have become dirty words in the gaming sphere over the years and lawmakers are seemingly now getting involved.
Yesterday US senator Josh Hawley revealed the introduction of a bill that would ban manipulative features in videogames such as the sale of loot boxes.
“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.
The senator says that in recent years the videogame industry has become increasingly reliant on “monetization models that promote compulsive ‘microtransaction’ purchases by consumers”.
Loot boxes aren’t the only target Hawley has as pay-to-win practices are also in the senator’s cross hairs.
“Pay-to-win games take two forms. In some cases, designers engineer games with artificial difficulty curves to induce players to spend money on upgrades simply to progress. 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. In other cases, designers create multiplayer games offering players who purchase paid upgrades competitive advantages over other players,” Hawley said.
Speaking with The Verge, the Entertainment Software Association said that in other countries, loot boxes were found not to 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,” acting president for the association, Stanley Pierre-Louis, told The Verge.
Is this the death knell for loot boxes and microtransactions in general? That’s not a question that can be answered right now.
For one, Hawley’s bill is simply being introduced which doesn’t mean it will make it through the process of becoming a law.
That having been said, perhaps events in Belgium which found that loot boxes and gambling are in the same WhatsApp group might have an influence on the US.
While we aren’t game developers or publishers, we have to wonder how concerned those folks are now that lawmakers are starting to take notice of them and their – at times – predatory practices.