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.