New US bill would ban loot boxes in games for people under 18

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in iPhone
Moving forward as promised, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri formally introduced a bill on Thursday that would halt sales of gaming loot boxes to people under 18.

An 'Overwatch' loot box.
An 'Overwatch' loot box.


Dubbed the "Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act," the bill would also cover "pay-to-win" schemes in which players can buy an unfair advantage. Loot boxes are randomized bundles 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 to get what they actually want.

The items can be found in popular games like "Fortnite," "Overwatch," and "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," though those three typically limit purchases to cosmetic objects like clothing or skins. The worst offenders are more often mobile games targeted at a casual audience -- Hawley's office previously 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."

Co-sponsors on the bill include Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Hawley is a Republican.

The legislation is the third today backed by Markey -- the politician is also throwing his weight behind an anti-robocalling bill and requiring a warrant for electronics searches at the border.

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

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 10
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 770member
    The children of those that wanted Rap music to have warning labels, and the grand children of those that thought comic books would destroy society are taking their turn a the stupid trough.
  • Reply 2 of 10
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 370member
    DAalseth said:
    The children of those that wanted Rap music to have warning labels, and the grand children of those that thought comic books would destroy society are taking their turn at the stupid trough.
    I don't think that's a completely valid comparison. There is real science on video game addiction and the financial consequences of pay to win.


    I have some candy-crush-esque free to play games with many in-game purchases available. For one of them I think I have ~$200 equivalent in gold I've earned by playing well. Suckers!
    1STnTENDERBITSdysamoria
  • Reply 3 of 10
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 770member
    mknelson said:
    DAalseth said:
    The children of those that wanted Rap music to have warning labels, and the grand children of those that thought comic books would destroy society are taking their turn at the stupid trough.
    I don't think that's a completely valid comparison. There is real science on video game addiction and the financial consequences of pay to win.


    I have some candy-crush-esque free to play games with many in-game purchases available. For one of them I think I have ~$200 equivalent in gold I've earned by playing well. Suckers!
    I've heard some of these researchers talking on CBC and BBC. Utter alarmist hokum. Total BS. Sociologists trying to make work for themselves. I agree with not selling loot boxes. That's called cheating. But many of these people want to ban them outright. They think even playing the game and then getting a loot box which might have something valuable or nothing leads to gaming addiction, which is absurd.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    Johan42Johan42 Posts: 163member
    Loot boxes should be banned altogether. Games have become so shitty ever since they were introduced.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 10
    sgordonsgordon Posts: 32member
    Totally agree, we’ve had problems already. Some games and platforms are encouraging very addictive behaviors, using bate and switch tactics, sucking you in.

    loot boxes are bad. But also this thing that you can play for free but get an advantage if you pay money. One of the worst out there is roblox which we’ve had real issues with. 
    dysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 10
    tommikeletommikele Posts: 268member
    Sure, let's have a grandstanding fool politician impose regulation over your personal behavior/choices.. Just what we need. If you have an addiction, face the truth, take responsibility and get some help instead. It's not the government's job to keep you from screwing up your own life.
  • Reply 7 of 10
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,353member
    More anti-regulation commentary and blanket dismissal of legitimate human social sciences in order to protect and lick the boots of corporations in the name of “freedom”. It gets so tiresome to continuously see this willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism on here.
    Rayer
  • Reply 8 of 10
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 3,433member
    tommikele said:
    Sure, let's have a grandstanding fool politician impose regulation over your personal behavior/choices.. Just what we need. If you have an addiction, face the truth, take responsibility and get some help instead. It's not the government's job to keep you from screwing up your own life.

    A Government is elected to work for the people. It is easy to dismiss everything a Government does with extreme cynicism, but if game developers are taking undue advantage of prone people, then it makes sense for the Government to intervene.
    Rayer
  • Reply 9 of 10
    Because no kid will ever lie about their age...
  • Reply 10 of 10
    techsavytechsavy Posts: 34member
    If purely in game earned loot boxes with a shop option for the items within the loot box exists, which some games do/did, it would not be an issue. However corporations cannot help themselves but to make it as insidious and manipulative as possible in order to make people want to purchase loot boxes. 

    There are actual must dos that all Slot machines adhere to in order to attract the attention of near by people, and Loot boxes certainly hit all those marks trying to also hook people into purchasing them.

    In the end all the game companies are a business and they try to make as much money as possible as long as no negative repercussions occur. The gaming industry as a whole believes that if they overstep the line they merely apologize meekly and step back to the line and all is forgiven. That is not a consequence they care about, so they will just push til that line is drawn, sit there, and try pushing somewhere else.
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