US Politician and senator Maggie Hassan has issued a request for video game loot boxes to be investigated. Hassan should be a well-known figure to loot box critics, as she was responsible for the implementation of specific ESRB labels for games featuring loot boxes earlier in the year.
This investigation is the latest development in the global movement toward potentially heavily moderated loot box systems. Loot boxes have already been outright banned in Belgium and are regulated by strict gambling laws in Japan, Australia, China, and The Netherlands. We’ve already seen Apple get hands on too by forcing developers on their platform to offer full disclosure for all loot box odds.
One of the biggest arguments against loot boxes is their aggressive use in games often aimed at children. Several PEGI ‘3’ and ESRB ‘E’ rated games such as the FIFA series tie them directly to the core progression of the game. In FIFA’s case, its popular Ultimate Team game mode gives users various cards including players as an incentive for spending real money.
During her conference, Hassan commented: “Britain’s Gambling Commission released a report finding that 30 percent of children have used loot boxes in video games.” The same report also suggested a correlation between loot box exposure and the rise of young gambling addicts in recent years. If true, these findings could be extremely alarming for parents, in particular, many of which are naive to these dangerous practices.
Not everyone is for the uprising against loot boxes though with Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan showing support for them in certain forms at Blizzcon last year. “I think on the big spectrum of loot boxes, between ‘really good’ and ‘really evil,’ I’d like to think we’re more on that ‘really good’ side with what we’re trying to do.” There is a potential argument that with Overwatch the content added is often quite good and can justify the price, like their 2018 Anniversary update.
Regardless of if your stance is closer to Kaplan or Hassan’s, the shift to a government controlled games industry could be a daunting thought. Many politicians don’t understand the industry as well as Maggie Hassan and there may be a real danger of inappropriate enforcement being put into place.