×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Missouri Senator Introduces Legislation to Ban Loot Boxes, Pay-to-Win

Updated: Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) is introducing legislation that seeks to ban exploitative video game industry practices that target children like loot boxes and pay-to-win, he announced on Wednesday.

“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices,” Sen. Hawley said. “When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. 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.”

Loot boxes are in-game treasure chests that contain random items. They’re typically purchased using in-game currency or real-world money and they’ve become a common sight in online video games in the last few years, generating millions in profit for publishers. But, some fear they’re too much like gambling and are exploitative. Some countries, like Belgium and the Netherlands, have already taken legal action and forced publishers to modify or remove loot boxes from their games. But, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) pointed out in a statement to Variety on Wednesday that many other countries don’t see the harm in them.

“Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling,” said Stanley Pierre-Louis, acting president and CEO of the ESA. “We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls.”

Sen. Hawley’s proposed bill is called the Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act. If it passes, it will apply new consumer protections to games targeted at children under the age of 18. It will define what those games are by using subject matter, visual content, and other indicators similar to those used to determine applicability of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The protections will also apply to games with a wider audience where the developers knowingly allow minors to play and engage in microtransactions. The bill will ban loot boxes with randomized or partially randomized rewards. It will also prohibit certain exploitative pay-to-win mechanics. For example, developers won’t be able to manipulate the competitive balance of multiplayer titles to encourage players to buy microtransactions that give them an advantage. Manipulating a game’s progression system to entice players into spending money to progress won’t be allowed as well. The FTC will be responsible for enforcing the rules. If developers break them, state attorneys general could file suits to defend the residents of their states.

Sen. Hawley is not the first U.S. politician to propose loot box legislation. Lawmakers in Hawaii introduced four bills in February 2018 that aim to regulate the sale of video games containing loot boxes. Two of the bills would ban selling such games to people under the age of 21. The other two require publishers to clearly label games that have loot boxes and disclose the odds of winning items.

Meanwhile, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the practice of video game loot boxes last year. The FTC plans to hold a workshop about the issue in August, where it will discuss the origins of loot boxes, how they’re being marketed to consumers, and the potential behavioral impact they could have on children.

Hassan told Variety she is still reviewing Hawley’s proposed bill.

“Senator Hassan is still reviewing Senator Hawley’s legislation, and she is encouraged that there is bipartisan interest in the issue of loot boxes and the importance of protecting young gamers.”

Popular on Variety

More Gaming

  • Venn co-founders

    VENN Raises $17 Million to Launch a Cheddar-like TV Network for Gaming

    Video game industry veterans Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin have raised a massive $17 million seed funding round to launch a new gaming-focused TV network called VENN. Short for Video Game Entertainment and News Network, VENN wants to mix esports with Twitch-style video game streaming and other gaming-related entertainment content when it launches in 2020. [...]

  • JoJo Siwa'The Angry Birds Movie 2'

    Nickelodeon Star JoJo Siwa Gets Her Own Dance-Tour Mobile Game (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fans of JoJo Siwa will be able to join the teen influencer’s dance squad on stage — virtually — in a new mobile game. In “JoJo Siwa — Live to Dance,” players will become part of the Nickelodon and YouTube star’s worldwide tour on her professional dance team and experience what it’s like to be [...]

  • Game Awards OrchestraThe Game Awards, Show,

    The Game Awards 2019 Sets December Date, Will Live-Stream Across 45 Platforms

    The Game Awards 2019, the fifth annual video game industry kudosfest, will be held Dec. 12 in Los Angeles and will be live-streamed for free again on more than 45 different platforms worldwide. The Game Awards is an annual celebration of video games and the people who make them, created and executive produced by Geoff [...]

  • HTC Vive Cosmos

    HTC Replaces HTC Vive With New $699 Vive Comos VR Headset

    HTC is getting ready to retire the headset that was central to its expansion into the virtual reality market 3 years ago: The company announced on Thursday that its new Vive Comos headset will effectively replace the original HTC Vive, which was first released in April of 2016. “It was time to upgrade our consumer [...]

  • Sohu logo

    China's Sohu Seeks Games Consolidation With $500 Million Bid for Changyou

    Sohu, one of China’s Internet pioneers, is offering to buy out its games subsidiary Changyou in a deal that values Changyou at $532 million. Both companies currently have their shares listed on NASDAQ, but if the deal goes ahead Changyou would lose its separate stock listing. Sohu, which has interests covering search, digital advertising and [...]

  • marvel lenovo ar

    Lenovo, Disney Launch Marvel AR Headset

    Lenovo has once again teamed up with Disney to bring one of the studio’s iconic franchises to augmented reality (AR). After first launching the “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges” AR headset in 2017, the two companies are back with a new “Marvel Dimension of Heroes” experience running on slightly revamped hardware. News of Lenovo and Disney [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content