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Senator Pushes FTC Head for Loot Box Investigation Timeline

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), who asked the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into video game loot boxes, is now asking the head of the commission for an update on the status of that investigation “as soon as practicable,” a time table, as well as proposed next steps, according to a copy of the letter shared with Variety.

The letter comes about two months after FTC chairman Joseph Simons agreed to investigate video game loot boxes to ensure that children are being protected and parents are educated on the matter.

In the letter sent to Simons on Friday, Hassan reiterated that an FTC investigation is a necessary step to “adequately protect children and other vulnerable people who play video games, as well as to better educate parents and players about the possibility of addiction and other negative behaviors resulting from loot box exposure.” She also said that loot boxes are now “endemic in the video game industry, and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget ‘blockbuster’ video game releases.”

“According to some researchers,” she wrote, “loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022. Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which trigger the same psychological behavior and reward systems that have been linked with traditional gambling and are often considered integral components of video games.

“The effect of loot boxes on children and consumers is something that I have been worried about for some time, and I appreciate that you share my concern. I have also raised this issue in a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, the self-regulatory ratings arm of the Entertainment Software Association.”

The FTC has begun the initial steps in the investigation, according to the letter.

Last year, in response to the growing concern surrounding loot boxes in video games, the ESRB said it would continue to make enhancements to ensure parents continue to be well-informed as the industry evolves. The group did not directly address what it might do in terms of loot boxes, microtransactions, and ratings.

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