The US Federal Trade Commission will investigate loot boxes

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More and more governments are starting to probe loot boxes, investigating whether or not they’re akin to gambling and what harmful effects they might have on children. Some US states, like Hawaii, have also looked to legislate them.

Now, the US’s Federal Trade Commission will investigate loot boxes to see if the monetisation method is akin to gambling. It comes after an official request by Senator Maggie Hassan.

“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smart phone games to the newest, high budget releases,” said Hassan, adding that in-game microtransactions like loot boxes will “represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022.”

“It’s time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected,” said Hassan. “And to educate parents about potential addiction and other negative impacts of these games.”

This comes just a day after the Australian government released a multiple-page report that recommends that authorities undertake a comprehensive review of loot boxes.

“The committee recommends that the Australian Government undertake a comprehensive review of loot boxes in video games.

This review should commission further research into the potential for gambling-related harms to be experienced as a result of interaction with loot boxes; identify any regulatory or policy gaps which may exist in Australia’s regulatory frameworks; examine the adequacy of the Classification Scheme as it relates to video games containing loot boxes; consider if existing consumer protection frameworks adequately address issues unique to loot boxes; and ensure that Australia’s approach to the issue is consistent with international counterparts.”

It all depends on which international counterparts that might be. For now, the US doesn’t believe that loot boxes are the same as gambling, which is something echoed by the ESA (Via Polygon):

“Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.”

If the FTC investigates them and finds any different, that status may change. While I have no problem with microtransactions in general, I’m not fond of loot boxes, especially when they cost real-world money. I spent far too much of my cash on lucky packets when I was a wee lad, and have no intention of spending money on them as an adult.

Last Updated: November 28, 2018

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