Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) today announced plans to introduce "The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act", which would target "the exploitation of children through "pay-to-win" and "loot box" monetization practices by the video game industry", according to a summary released by Hawley's office.
Video games popular among kids would be prohibited from offering "loot boxes" or randomized assortments of digital weapons, clothing and other items that can be purchased for a fee, under federal legislation to be introduced by Republican Sen.
"And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions", said Hawley in a statement. Or any game that's played by children?
In a press release, Senator Hawley gave an example of Candy Crush's microtransactions, a game owned by Activision Blizzard.
One of the most talked about topics in the game's industry is the egregious inclusion of pay-to-win microtransactions and loot boxes across various games.
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The bill will also target PC and console games, or anything with "compulsive microtransactions" that under-18s can play. Although the exact targeting of the bill is unknown, Hawley says that it is looking at games designed for kids and those "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions". "No matter this business model's advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: There is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices".
We won't know more about the bill until it hits the Senate floor and becomes part of public record, but it seems like Senator Hawley has a good grasp of the concerns that his constituents (and many others) have about loot boxes in games that children play.
Parents have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that such charges often happen without their permission or end up being much larger than they expect. "Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls".
"Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling". While I agree that there should be legislation preventing companies from marketing gambling-adjacent products to children, bills from right-wing parties claiming to be "thinking of the children" don't have a great track record.
Both Apex and Overwatch feature loot boxes.