Loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics are under fire from a US senator who wants to ban them for anyone under the age of 18.
It looks like the unbridled greed of publishers is catching up with them again, after US senator Josh Hawley put forward legislation to ban, ‘the exploitation of children through ‘pay-to-win’ and ‘loot box’ monetisation practices by the video game industry.’
‘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 in a statement.
‘When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetise 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.’
Hawley doesn’t mention the damage loot boxes can have on adults but it’s clear that if the legislation was to get written into law it would have a huge effect on the video games industry, not only in the US but likely the whole world.
That is a pretty big if though, especially once video game lobbyists start trying to talk politicians out of it. But while Hawley is a Republican this is one issue on which both parties have tended to agree on in the past.
Predictably, American trade association ESA has already implied that no change is necessary and that current parental controls are already sufficient.
Bizarrely though they use the example that many European countries (including the UK) have already determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling, neglecting to mention that Belgium and the Netherlands have – forcing companies to change their games in those countries.
It’s not entirely clear how much Hawley personally understands the issues, as the only game mentioned by name in his statement being Candy Crush. Although it’s hard to argue with his description of the $149.99 ‘Luscious Bundle’ as being ‘exploitative’.
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