Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley has revealed today a brand new legislation in which it’s purpose would be to completely eliminate loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransations in video games. Hawley specifically calls out companies for using the practice as a way to target children to figure out how to use the in game payments with or without their parents consent. Hawleys bill, titled the “Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act” will be officially introduced to the Congress floor soon, where it will undoubtedly go through a rigorous round of debates before it is either shot down or accepted.
“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 stated. “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. When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. 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.”
Loot boxes are literally in game boxes that contain random items for whatever game they pertain to. Most of the time they are able to be earned just by playing the game normally, however developers also allow players to use real-life-money to purchase them outright for a chance to get whatever cosmetic/weapon/or new character that they really want. It’s become common by today’s standards as well as a big time profit for a lot of companies, generating millions in extra revenue.
The practice has come under intense scrutiny over the past few years, as children can, and have, used their parents money to make these purchases which can rack up in the thousands. Some countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, have already taken legal measures against this and demanded that publishers and developers remove it from their games if they are to be sold in their region. Meanwhile, other countries in Europe seem to have no problem with microtransactions, at least for the time being.
Not long after this bill was introduced, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) responded to the proposal. “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. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls.” If this bill comes to pass, it would most likely be wholly enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which they themselves have reopened an investigation of loot box sales from the previous year.
Other than Senator Hawley, the United States a whole hasn’t really been that aggressive on loot boxes and microtransactions. Hawley has been known to lash out at social media companies, especially when it comes to their privacy settings, specifically for children. He’s turned his attention to the gaming aspect of of it now, and whether the politicians were either too afraid to act on it, or they had other matters that they considered more important, it has been a serious issues for many years. Now thanks to Hawley, it’s right in front of their face, and soon it will be brought up in Congress for an official hearing at a later time.