Loot boxes are great but when players have to pay for them, it feels a little bit shady on the developers' part.
Worse yet, this practice leaves kids' vulnerable to exploitation. At such a young age they might not have a fully rounded concept of money yet, which could encourage them to pay without thinking twice. A senator wants to change that.
Josh Hawley on Wednesday announced that he intends to introduce a bill that would ban manipulative design features in video games with underage audiences, including the sale of loot boxes.
Bill Would Ban Loot Boxes Aimed At Kids
If approved, the legislation would prohibit the sale of loot boxes in games targeted at minors. However, games marketed to wider audiences could also face penalties from regulators, such as the Federal Trade Commission, if companies deliberately encourage children to purchase these items.
Loot items, for the uninitiated, are purchasable randomized crates. In essence, even if a player purchases one, they don't know what they'd get.
"Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids' attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits," said Hawley, as The Verge reports. "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."
The bill states that operators would be able to determine whether a game is targeted at minors by looking at similar indicators already at play under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. They could also review a game's subject matter and content to know who it's marketed toward.
Microtransactions Would Be Included, Too
In addition, the bill would also ban pay-to-win microtransactions targeted at minors, including progression systems that encourage players to spend money to pass through a game's hoops faster, such as advancing a level if they pay for a certain item.
Games that employ these tactics are often free-to-play, and they primarily make money this way, if not through ads. Hawley said that game developers should not be allowed to "monetize addiction."
"[W]hen kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences."
If approved, the rules would be enforced by the aforementioned FTC. The group has allegedly begun investigating the sale of loot boxes, although Chairman Joe Simons could not confirm that such an investigation existed in a letter released February.
Make sure to check back with Tech Times as we learn more.