If there is one good thing to come from Star Wars Battlefront 2, it is that people around the world being more aware of loot boxes. In regards to a past article, EA (Electronic Arts) faces heavy scrutiny from gamers and government officials regarding the loot box system in Star Wars. Buying loot boxes gave unfair advantages to players in competitive multiplayer and were the best option to unlocking all of the content in the game. Hawaii was very critical against EA and video game companies pushing loot boxes in their games as they viewed it as a form of gambling towards children. Now Hawaii lawmakers are trying to push new bills to regulate loot box purchases.
One pair of bills, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, would prohibit people under the age of 21 purchasing any games with randomized rewards using real money. House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would require video game companies to label games with randomized purchases and the probability of loot box rewards. State Rep. Chris Lee of Oahu, who spearheaded the bills, stated “I’ve watched firsthand the evolution of the industry from one that seeks to create new things to one that’s begun to exploit people, especially children, to maximize profit.”
While games like Overwatch make earning loot boxes plausible and only offer cosmetics, some are providing advantages in game which encourages people to buy in order to win. Lee stated because the games are only rated T, the games promote gambling at a young age on virtual goods. Despite the backlash, Star Wars Battlefront 2 sold well but not as good as EA had hoped. EA was hoping to make more based on micro-transaction but based on the backlash, had to remove them.
Micro-transaction and in-app purchases are common among video games, including games for younger audience such as Minecraft and smart phone games. GDC (Games Developer Conferences) stated that 1/10 upcoming games would have loot boxes in some manner. One anonymous GameStop employee is wary that the law could lower the cost of sales based on the labels.
Micro-transactions are a huge profit for video game companies. Activision Blizzard made over $4 billion on loot boxes alone in 2017. Often, companies use micro-transactions to earn higher profit margins rather than relying on sales alone. Gamers throughout the world have complained about the system and “games as a service” that has become more prevalent. Whether the law passes will force the industry to change a huge part of sales and potentially shake up the practices.