U.S. Senator Introduces Bill To Ban Loot Boxes And Pay-To-Win Microtransactions

EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II became a focal point for the loot box controversy when it was released in 2017. (Screenshot: EA)

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) today announced a bill that would ban loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions in “games played by minors,” a broad label that the senator will include both games designed for kids under 18 and games “whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions.”

Hawley will introduce the bill, “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act,” to the U.S. Senate soon. In press materials announcing the bill, Hawley’s team brought up the Activision game Candy Crush as an egregious example of pay-to-win microtransactions thanks to its $214 “Luscious Bundle” that comes with a whole bunch of goodies.

This bill will also likely apply to Fortnite, the biggest game in the world, along with a host of other online games that feature loot boxes and other ways in which players can spend money for real benefits.

“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetise addiction,” Hawley said in a press release. “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.”

Last fall, the Federal Trade Commission promised to investigate loot boxes following a letter from Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) that she wrote in the wake of 2017's string of games featuring the heavy usage of predatory microtransactions, such as Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront 2.

Although some companies have pulled back on the practice, popular games like Overwatch, FIFA, and Apex Legends continue to make big money off randomised microtransactions. Many of those games are played by both adults and children.

Hawley, 39, has become known in Washington for criticising major tech companies Facebook and Google, often accusing them of anti-conservative bias.


Comments

    Fantastic work. I hope the bill passes without any troubles.

    Never thought I'd agree with a republican senator on anything. Now if we could light a fire under our own politician's arses and get shit done over here... Perhaps getting gambling ads off prime time tv while they're at it. Though I doubt our pollies would be brave enough to bite the hand that bribes em, sadly. Gee, I sure do have my anti-advertising crusader helmet on today!

    Kids are always ruining my online experience with their swearing, saying they're going to sexual assault my mom, and in the end I wish they were buried neck deep on the beaches.

    But by golly am I gonna pull the "Think of the children" card when someone ruin my favourite franchises with loot boxes, and I need to make an argument about gambling and ethical blah blah.

    Someday I'll pull a reversal, and use loot boxes on kids. Something along the lines of, "Kids these days, there's too many of them, and one night during a KFC run the staff told me that all the hot'n'spicy chicken were bought by a group of kids, so I've come up with a plan called and loot boxes, to keep them just below the poverty line, that way I won't have a hot'n'spicy shortage ever again".

    I'm gonna reserve my judgement for now since it's very vague and oddly titled.

    Bills like this tend to be used to push a ton of additions and amendments that cover a lot more than the initial reported purpose and sometimes not even cover that purpose at all by the end.

    Gonna be watching this one very closely.

      Seems prudent, considering how these kinds of bills often come out the other side in the US.

        Damn right!
        I'm all for the idea of removing predatory microtransactions from kids gaming and all but it sure as shit isn't called "The Protect Children from Predatory Monetisation and Gambling Act".
        Not to mention we know the government in the US has very broad and extreme views on what's considered bad or "abusive" about gaming these days and just loves to repeat all that nonsense about violence in games and the effect it has on kids/people.

      It'd probably end up allowing for even more lootboxes... I think the issue around a bill like this is that a lot of politicians won't have a clue what lootboxes/microtransactions are or what their impact is. They might be aware of something like Fortnite as 'the game with the funny/annoying dances my grandkid does', but they more than likely aren't exposed to how a game like that can cause addiction style behaviour

        Exactly!
        I have a nasty feeling a whole bunch of other stuff is going to get tacked on to the bill under the guise of abusive gaming or the whole thing is just a clay pidgeon bill that gets fired up just to get shot down.
        It's good publicity for the politician flinging it in to the air but it's never gonna sprout wings and go anywhere.

    Nice to know that someone around my age could stand for this, even in another country. And this should not only be related to kids, it should relate to everyone who enjoys games. You should not have to pay for actual progress on mobile based games in general.

      Agree, it's not just kids that are vulnerable to what is essentially gambling for virtual items. A crackdown of mechanisms that solicit addictive spending behaviours is long overdue.

    They needed to pick a better team to come up with the team name as we all know gamers love acronyms.
    I just can't seem to get behind PCAGA....

    That's great news. Let's see what form the bill's in if/when it gets passed. Would games developers push to have age verification in their games so they can still sell lootboxes to adults in the same game? I get why this is focused on keeping children away from addiction and gambling, but the damage to some adults is just as bad.

    I play SWGOH on a daily basis but spend maybe $20 a year on it, but some people are spending $100s a year, if not a month sometimes in this game. That can't be healthy, especially when a developer said on Twitter that they fully expect individuals to drop several thousand dollars per year on the game. I don't know if those players are legitimately rich or just using their dad's credit card, but that kind of expenditure can't be healthy for anyone, child or adult

      You don’t want to know how much I drop on DoA:Venus Vacation a fortnight

    "Thank you Madam Speaker, I would like to propose an amendment to the bill limiting access to discounted bus tickets for war widows."

    *debate starts*

    "Let me just go get my bed pan"

    *rabble rabble rabble*

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