×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ESRB Wasn’t Aware of Pending FTC Investigation Into Loot Boxes

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board wasn’t aware that Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) was going to call for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into video game loot boxes earlier this week, a board spokesperson tells Variety.

On Tuesday, Hassan called on FTC chairman Joseph Simons to investigate video game loot boxes to ensure that children are being protected and parents are educated on the matter.

The request came about nine months after Hassan sent a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board asking for the group to review the ratings process as it relates to loot boxes, examine the marketing of loot boxes to children, and put together best practices for developers around the toxic form of microtransactions. The senator also asked the board to conduct a study that further delves into the reach and impact of loot boxes in games. At the time, she said if they didn’t take sufficient action she would ask the FTC to get involved.

In response, the ESRB added a new online-only rating descriptor that noted when a game had in-game purchases. The descriptor did not distinguish between loot boxes — a system of purchasing digital boxes containing randomized items which some government agencies believe are either a form of gambling or could lead to an increase in gambling in youth — and other less controversial forms of microtransactions, like being able to buy specific hats or clothes for a character. The board also launched an effort to educate parents.

In responding to Variety, the ESRB said it was not made aware of Senator Hassan’s decision to engage the FTC on the topic.

“ESRB president, Patricia Vance, communicated with Senator Hassan about addressing in-game purchases in February 2018, while ESRB was in the process of adding a new interactive element – In-Game Purchases – to inform parents of when games offer the ability to purchase digital goods and premiums with real world currency, which officially launched in April 2018,” according to the statement from an ESRB spokesperson. “ESRB also launched ParentalTools.org to help inform parents of additional tools, such as parental controls, to help them manage how much money (if any) can be spent on in-game purchases. We have not communicated with Senator Hassan on the matter since February.”

Hassan told Variety that while she will work with the ESRB on the issue, the FTC should also look into the issue.

“While I have appreciated working with the ESRB on this issue, I have also said that the Federal Trade Commission has a responsibility to look at this issue,” she said. “The need for FTC action becomes more apparent given the recent report from the Gambling Commission of Great Britain and the steps other countries have taken to regulate loot boxes. I hope the FTC will move quickly to begin their investigation and look forward to working with all parties on this issue.”

A spokesperson for the FTC declined to discuss any specifics of the investigation with Variety and noted it would send out a press release once it has anything to say on the matter.

More Gaming

  • ‘Pokemon Go’ Publisher Seeks $3.9 Billion

    ‘Pokemon Go’ Publisher Seeks $3.9 Billion Valuation, $200 Million in Funding

    Niantic Inc., the publisher behind “Pokémon Go,” is working to raise a new round of capital investment which would increase the valuation of the company to $3.9 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports. The publisher is seeking out $200 million in an upcoming round of funding that is expected to be led by the venture [...]

  • ‘Fortnite’ Devs Remove Controversial Infinity Blade

    ‘Fortnite’ Devs Remove Controversial Infinity Blade

    Epic removed a controversial new item from its massively popular “Fortnite” following criticism from players over the late-game weapon’s overpowered nature. Epic announced the removal of the Infinity Blade this morning in an apologetic tweet from the official “Fortnite” Twitter account. “We messed up and rolled out the Infinity Blade overpowered / without good counters, [...]

  • Gamers' Choice Awards Wraps With Solid

    How Gamers' Choice Awards Failed to Live Up to the Hype, Ended in Potential Lawsuit

    It was billed as the Oscars for the world of gaming, a live, televised video game award show from the creator of the Teen Choice Awards that would deliver an experience the producers described as “Golden Globe Awards combined with a bit of the VMAs and Teen Choice.” For performances, according to that original pitch [...]

  • ‘Artifact’ Gets Its First Major Update

    ‘Artifact’ Gets Its First Major Update

    The first major update for Valve’s collectible card game “Artifact” is now out, bringing two new decks, leaderboards, colorblind support, a chat wheel, and more. Update 1.1 introduces the mono black Dark Aggro deck and the mono blue Death From Above deck to “Artifact’s” The Call to Arms event, the first set of cards released [...]

  • Nick Eh 30, StoneMountain64

    CAA Signs Gaming Influencers Nick Eh 30, StoneMountain64

    CAA has signed two popular live-streaming battle royale gamers — Nicholas Amyoony, better known as Nick Eh 30, and David Steinberg, aka StoneMountain64 — for representation. CAA said it will work to create opportunities for Nick Eh 30 (above left) and StoneMountain64 (above right) in all areas, including TV, motion pictures, touring, digital distribution and [...]

  • 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' Version 1.2.0

    'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' Update Brings Online Fixes, Character Tweaks

    “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” version 1.2.0 is live now, including fixes for online connectivity issues, several character adjustments, and Pikachu and Eevee Spirits for “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” players. Version 1.2.0 contains adjustments for Greninja, Link, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Luigi, Ice Climbers, Young Link, Olimar, Toon Link, Pac-Man, Duck Hunt, Isabelle, and Villager, but there [...]

  • Jimmy Kimmel's Latest Trolling Effort Involves

    Jimmy Kimmel's Latest Trolling Effort Involves 'Fortnite'

    The latest request from Jimmy Kimmel asks parents to turn off the TV while kids are playing “Fortnite.” The host of Jimmy Kimmel Live explained that he asked parents to prank their kids with a new Youtube Challenge called “Hey Jimmy Kimmel, I turned off the TV during Fortnite.” Parents participated by filming the results [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content