Proposed US bill would ban loot boxes in Mac & iOS games for players under 18

Posted:
in iPhone
A bill proposed by U.S. Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri would prohibit game developers from selling loot boxes in Mac, iPhone, and iPad games played by people under 18.

The mobile version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
The mobile version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.


The "Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act" would also cover "pay-to-win" schemes in which players can buy items that give them an unfair advantage. Loot boxes are randomized assortments of content -- such as clothing, weapons, or in-game currency -- and have been accused of encouraging gambling, since adults and children alike may have to buy several boxes to get content they actually want.

Boxes can be found in titles like "Fortnite," "Overwatch," and "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," but those three typically limit purchases to cosmetic items. The worst offenders are more often mobile games targeted at a casual audience -- Hawley's office specifically singled out "Candy Crush," a "free" match-3 puzzler in which people can buy extra moves, lives, and other progress boosters. One in-game bundle purportedly costs as much as $149.99, more than twice the upfront price for big-budget PC and console games like "Red Dead Redemption II."

"When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn't be allowed to monetize addiction," said Hawley. "And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions."

Gamers, politicians, and parents alike have increasingly fought back against pervasive microtransactions. One company, EA, was forced to retool a flagship game, "Star Wars: Battlefront II," when people learned that some paid boxes could affect multiplayer balance.

That game in fact became a tipping point, snowballing into actions by regulators in China, Belgium, and Japan, as well as state-level proposals in the U.S., though none of the latter have reached lawbooks. The Federal Trade Commission has promised to look into loot boxes but has not launched a formal investigation.

A crackdown could hit not just developers but platform-holders like Apple, which claims a 30 percent cut from all App Store transactions except subscriptions active for more than a year.

In earlier days of the App Store, Apple made headlines because of children who downloaded "free-to-play" games only to rack up hundreds of dollars on their parents' credit cards. The company was slow to react, though it did eventually institute better labels and controls. It wasn't until this April that people were required to hit "Confirm Subscription" before signing up for monthly or annual payments.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    jbdragon
  • Reply 2 of 18
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 142member, editor
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    All games, we're just narrowing on our audience.
    racerhomie3
  • Reply 3 of 18
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,834member
    How can I persuade my iPhone that I'm under 18?
    jbdragonbloggerbloggutengeln2itivguyroundaboutnow
  • Reply 4 of 18
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,365member
    Good start. 
  • Reply 5 of 18
    mystigomystigo Posts: 120member
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    All games, we're just narrowing on our audience.
    Is that a euphemism for misreporting?
  • Reply 6 of 18
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,124member
    This crap is why I really don't play much Freemium games. I refuse to buy this crap. It's never ending. Others can buy a lot of it and have a huge advantage over you. So I download some and play a little early on and then I'm done with it.

    I've paid for apps that were $50 on my iphone. I've gotten a few $10 games. I'm willing to pay for good games. Keep the prices in the $4.99-$9.99 and people will buy up a great game. The biggest problem though has been APPLE!!! There's no real Trial first and if you like pay. You normally have to PAY for it first to try it. Or they have to put out 2 copies, one limited and if you like it, Delete it and buy the other. People don't like that option.

    The other issue is Software Upgrades. You buy a program and then it's like forever free updates. Of they have to release a whole new version. A version that new users pay the full price and users that want to upgrade ALSO have to pay the full price. Anything for Apple to get their 30% cut. it's screwed the marketplace up so much and most stuff is now Freemium and I download very little in the app store these days because of that.

    I HATE loot boxes. I HATE, HATE, HATE freemium games. When I see one of these so called FREE games, I go and look and see the listing of crap you can buy to play it. You have to buy it. You'll get to the point where you really can't do anything and for example getting attacked over and over by others as you can't upgrade. Not without spending lots of money. No thanks!!!! These games to play can cost far more then a high quality full box type game. I wish others would just refuse to download and play this crap.
    gutengel
  • Reply 7 of 18
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 142member, editor
    mystigo said:
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    All games, we're just narrowing on our audience.
    Is that a euphemism for misreporting?
    We're an Apple-focused website.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 8 of 18
    olsols Posts: 41member
    That would be great if those freemium on the app store would vanish. Yay, I would like to see that
    n2itivguy
  • Reply 9 of 18
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,657member
    I have no problems with freemium games, I play a few myself from time to time.

    I do however hate loot boxes, it's basically pure gambling and I refuse to ever purchase any out of principle.

    When I feel like gambling, I'd rather do it in a casino, where I can win real money.
  • Reply 10 of 18
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,711member
    Good start. 
    I disagree. It isnt really doing the job and I doubt it could effectively policed.  There is too much lawyer thinking in the political process these days. Make an Act, impose a regulation, and everyone goes home thinking they did a real good thing, job done. Legislating becomes an end in itself but in reality just a few more pages added to the paper mountain slowly burying everyone.
    if they really want to stop people being ripped off with loot boxes, just ban them altogether. That would also be a lot less complex and detailed regulation, with no loopholes to exploit.


    Or or even better. People just vote with their feet and don’t buy fremium games. Alternatively, Apple could consider introducing time limited free access to apps, say the first 48 hours, after which you pay to continue using it, and also allow developers to charge for an update once per year, as long as the old version continues to work.
    edited May 8
  • Reply 11 of 18
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,240member
    "When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn't be allowed to monetize addiction..." 
    Fixed.
  • Reply 12 of 18
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,657member
    entropys said:

    Or or even better. People just vote with their feet and don’t buy fremium games.
    But nobody has to buy freemium games, they're free.

    It is fully possible to play many freemium games without ever spending a dime.

    There will also always be certain users who will spend a lot on in app purchases in freemium games, but I suppose that's their own choice. It is not a requirement.
  • Reply 13 of 18
    borpsborps Posts: 16member
    What about loot boxes with items that are purely cosmetic? ESO has them. I don’t buy them, but sometimes I still get et to open some because I collected a bunch of diamonds or whatever they’re called.
  • Reply 14 of 18
    firelockfirelock Posts: 151member
    While I agree with some of the sentiments regarding pay-to-win and loot boxes, I see no reason to regulate it. We should allow the invisible hand of the marketplace to regulate it for us. While loot boxes are gambling by definition, the real problem with gambling has always been the criminal element is attracted to it because the winnings, real money, has intrinsic value. The mob is not going to be running a loot box scheme to get the latest D.Va skin. I occasionally buy loot boxes in Overwatch and Hearthstone. My kids do in some of their games, too. But we are smart enough not to play pay-to-win games and blow thousands of dollars on them the way some people do. But that is their choice.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    GamerGeekGamerGeek Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    mystigo said:
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    All games, we're just narrowing on our audience.
    Is that a euphemism for misreporting?
    We're an Apple-focused website.
    I get you're an Apple-focused website but the article reads as if this bill is specifically targeting Apple platforms. Something like "prohibit game developers from selling loot boxes in games, including Mac, iPhone, and iPad games." would go a long way to adress that.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    markbyrnmarkbyrn Posts: 608member
    The article is misleading as it implied that the bill was aimed just at the listed Apple platforms but it's not.  From a reading of the bill, it would also apply to any platform including Android, PC, Xbox, PS, Nintendo, and Apple TV which isn't mentioned.   
  • Reply 17 of 18
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    All games, we're just narrowing on our audience.
    "All games, we're just pandering to our audience, and helping them to feel more persecuted than they actually are."

    Fixed that for you.
  • Reply 18 of 18
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,630member
    Does the bill really only affect "Mac, iPhone, and iPad games," or does it affect all games?
    All games, we're just narrowing on our audience.
    This would be more desirable:

    ”would prohibit game developers from selling loot boxes in games played by people under 18, including Mac, iPhone, and iPad games.”
    firelock
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