Hawaii Wants To Fight The 'Predatory Behaviour' Of Loot Boxes

Here's Rep. Chris Lee (D) from Hawaii standing in front of a camera and making an announcement about steps being taken to combat the "predatory behaviour" of video game publishers, with particular emphasis given to Electronic Arts and its inclusion of loot boxes within Battlefront II.

And I mean particular emphasis: the video is titled "EA predatory behaviour announcement", and Lee specifically calls out Battlefront II, labelling it a "Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money".

"It's a trap".

The video was actually published before accompanying press material had been written up, but Lee — upon seeing that the clip was being viewed and shared — took to Reddit to explain the announcement (emphasis mine):

People are more powerful than they think. While we are stepping up to act in Hawaii, we have also been in discussions with our counterparts in a number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue. Change is difficult at the federal level, but states can and are taking action.

Even so, elected officials can't do it alone. They need your support and you can compel action wherever you live by calling and emailing your own state legislators and asking them to act. But don't stop there. Call your allies. Call your pastors and teachers and community leaders. Ask them to call your state legislators as well. Their voices are politically powerful.

I believe this fight can be won because all the key bases of political support across the country are on the same side. The religious community, the medical community, the education community, consumer advocates, parents, even many business leaders and local chambers of commerce. This is a fight that unites everyone, even the most polarised conservatives and progressives. Doing something is a political win for Democrats and Republicans alike. And frankly, we don't need to change the laws in every state - we just need to change a few and it will be enough to draw the line and compel change.

These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.

Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one. You have the power to get involved and decide this and the choice is clear: stand up now, or let this be the new normal from this point forward.

One state introducing measures to combat loot boxes — seen by many, and an increasing number of official bodies, as a form of gambling — wouldn't make too big of a difference in the global scheme of things, but if "a number of other states" from the US were to possibly join forces, as Lee is suggesting, that would be a different story.

Lee's proposal would see legislation introduced in Hawaii that would prohibit the sale of games featuring loot boxes to minors, and believes "these issues should be addressed before this becomes the norm for every game". He also mentions "prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms" within games.

"We didn't allow Joe Camel to encourage our kids to smoke cigarettes", State representative Sean Quinlan adds, "and we shouldn't allow Star Wars to encourage our kids to gamble."

It's worth remembering that this is simply a preliminary announcement. But it's still a sign that after all the protests over the game's payment and progression systems amongst its target audience, there may be genuine cause for action at a legislative level as well.


Comments

    This is amazing, before publishers and devs stumbled on this predatory practice we already had f2p making money from cooldown timers, boosters, inventory upgrades not to mention any number of piecemeal DLC but that wasn't enough. Good to see this is getting rained in.

      They didn’t stumble on it, they nicked the model from freemium games and glued it onto a full priced game. Total scam.

      Last edited 22/11/17 2:30 pm

        f2p and full priced games are in the same industry often published by the same publishers, not a secret and not 'nicked' ;)

      Star Wars themed online casino! Amazing

        I would totally go...This is FOR SURE the BlackJack table I am looking for...

    There are a lit of countries and states looking into this... the fiasco presented by both EA and Disney was the perfect target. Eventually I hope ESRB and PEGI convene to self regulate before individual states it a mess of regional leguslations.

    "We shouldn't allow Star Wars to teach our kids to gamble."

    I'm sure Disney agrees. They've allowed EA the Star Wars license, and here EA is doing massive damage to the brand. They might have been trying to weather the storm but I'm sure some sort of crackdown is now coming.

    That is a wonderfully-written statement, and quite exciting.

      I know right?!

      I was half expecting a heavy politically angled Partisan piece, some goon saving us from the evils of either the left of right.
      This dude ain't having none of that bullcrap.

      But EA said it "Isn't gambling, It's fun & fair.. Something along those lines." What do these silly gambling regulatory bodies & politicians know? Lol

    Frak! The app store is doomed!

    This has real legs now doesn't it! Amazing!

    And so begins the crucifixion of rngesus (sorry couldn't help myself)

    I wonder how viable games like Overwatch will be if they are forced to restrict loot boxes? I feel like the length of time between sequels may shorten quite a bit from planned.

    Between this guy and the decision made Belgium, these law makers aren't really interested in the difference between cosmetic and game altering loot boxes. so, potentially, a lot of games are going to feel this pain, from Battlefront to Hearthstone.

    It doesn't really affect me, as I've felt the need to spend any money on any micro transactions at all, let alone loot boxes. But for those who do, I sincerely hope the juice is worth the squeeze.

      In the case of Overwatch, they could simply fix it by making it easy to purchase the skins you want directly without any sort of RNG process (ie. get rid of loot crates completely) and also be completely upfront about approximately how many playing hours are needed to unlock certain skins if someone wants to unlock them through regular progression.

        In Overwatch they do though, you can use In Game credits to buy the skins and never have to get a box.

      Overwatch has already had to deal with this because of China, which already has laws forbidding unfair gambling practices in games. In order to get permission to release there, Blizzard had to disclose exactly what the drop rates for all the items were, and Chinese regulators declared them to be fair.

      I would assume US/EU regulation would (at least at first) be similar to this, restricting unfair practices rather than banning a system entirely. But if they were to move to outlaw gambling in games 100%, then Overwatch would have to move to having a cosmetic store or something.

    Needs to be brought up (AND dealt with) at the next G8 or G20 summit. Perhaps even banning microtransactions from games for their first year of release.

    If this ball keeps rolling and gathering momentum i expect EA execs will be wondering "What have we done?"

    The industry needs to be regulated. Lootboxe's are predatory, They are normalizing gambling in children.

    I am in Hawaii. The news report they aired had comments regarding the effect it has had on families that have been "impacted" (his word) by children stealing their credit cards and purchasing this content. The report also insinuates that the more money you spend, the better your loot crate will be...or at least the better your chances your loot crate will be better...blah, blah, blah...then some whiny gamer gets on and says how he is sick of being nickled and dimed...well sheesh..go cry into your big gulp and just stop gaming. If you are gonna cry, take it up with the developers, use your mighty $$ (or don't use it)...but all HECK's sake, don't run crying to the government to legislate. Goodness gracious...

    http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/36901874/lawmakers-seek-crackdown-on-pay-to-play-video-games-they-say-promote-gambling

    So riddle me this slovenly gamer and tubeturd legislators...how is this any different than baseball cards, football cards, MAGIC the gathering cards, Pokemon cards, those stupid surprise bobble head 3 pack mystery boxes, or even a bubble gum machine (assuming we are collecting colors of flavors or something stupid)??

    And to the "poor" families that can't keep their kids from stealing their credit cards...turn off their PS4 accounts, unplug the internet, take away the Xbox, MAC filter it, check your credit card statements and bank account statements regularly....etc. Oh wait, they won't. Their kids are their friends. Even my teenage kids know that I have that power. They use my PS wallet, and I have alerts setup so that any thing that is purchase, free or not, is immediately emailed to me.

    Take some daggum personal responsibility...sheesh

    ALSO, the game is rated "T" for "Teen". ESRB defines this as, " TEEN: Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.

    HMMM...it even says "main contain harmful gambling chemicals"...okay, so not quite, but it is there.

    I don't know too many kids or small children that are forking over $59 - $129 for video games WITHOUT an adult purchasing it. I know many adults that NEVER use the inter tubes connectivity in their house to do just a little research. Know many that would still buy a GTA game for their 11 or 12 yr old because "that's what he wants for Christmas"...

    So why bother with ratings or reviews. Just use your daggum internet for netflix babysitting...

    Oops sorry..rambled on...just my 2¢

      So you are a publisher apologist that supports "unregulated" gambling in addition that is target to kids. Got to.

      The difference is the predatory nature perhaps, The implication that you do need to spend money to get better in Star Wars etc., In Magic the Gathering, You can build a okay ish deck without spending a fortune, Plus it's a "trading card" game. I'm sure there's alot more reasons, I've played Magic duels online & never spent a dime & that's free to play. Wizards of the coast aren't EA.

    I'd bet there are a fair few game devs that would be happy to see this happening too.
    Those in it for the art and not just as much money as possible probably hate being forced into the freemium model with these predatory practises. (and they are forced, to a certain degree, the whole deception with this model is that it makes your product look cheaper than it is, look cheaper than more straight laced competition)

    Curious tho...If there was no micro-transaction from the beginning, no, absolutely no plan about it.EA tells you in a interview (or someone calculated it) unlocking a hero will take roughly 30, 40 hours. How would you feel about the progression design?You bought the game, first unlocked Boba in 10 hours, then Darth 40 hours later, will you go "YES!" and happy slashing other player as Darth?

    Progress the same but no real cash loot box from the beginning. Would you think the progression is well designed? Would you be happier?

    I'm pretty sure that most developers know that this is extremely sketchy behaviour that , like most things that are new in the world, is hard and slow to regulate. Until then, they'll friggin' cash in.

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