Earlier this week, I reported on Hawaii’s representative introduced two bills to regulate distribution of video games with loot boxes. The bills would require games to have a label identifying that it contains loot boxes and would only allow sales of those games to 21+. Today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), question the Federal Tech Commission (FTC) about loot boxes and wrote a letter to the head of the ESRB, Patricia Vance, requesting them to a better inspection on loot boxes and the potential effects on players; mainly children.
Before, the ESRB refused to classify loot boxes as gambling as it would force an adult rating on video games based on a interview from Kotaku.
“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” said an ESRB spokesperson. “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”
Hassan was not satisfied with the response from the ESRB and suggested a re-evaluation as opening loot boxes are “expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny.” While her proposal isn’t as strict as Hawaii’s proposal, her position as a U.S. senator is more prevalent nation-wide. It could end up leading to her proposing federal legislation about this issue, rather than individual states doing it.
The government and most gamers are actually on the same side in regards to the opinion that loot boxes should be regulated more in games but the effect on the industry could be intense. Micro-transaction make a majority of games profits after initial sales. While the goal of all game sales are to make a profit from initial sales, the reason for the huge growth in the industry and making it a worth $30 billion are from practices such as this.