US senator Josh Hawley, the representative for the state of Missouri, has announced new legislation against the prevalence of loot boxes in games. The so-called ‘Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act’ is designed to implement consumer protections against loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions in any games which are targeted to under 18s.
The protection even extends to games which are rated for age 18 and above but have wide audiences and developers which knowingly allow children to engage within microtransactions. A game such as Call of Duty, for example, would probably fall into this bracket.
“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits,” said senator Hawley. “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.
“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.”
It seems a reasonable enough stance to take, we think, and represents one of the biggest steps yet in terms of affecting the AAA loot box economy. The legislation would affect all paid loot boxes offering any sort of randomised rewards, as well as pay-to-win microtransactions such as gated progression systems of paying for a competitive advantage over other players. Star Wars Battlefront 2, you’re officially screwed.
While welcome news for folks who don’t like spending their life savings on crappy car decals and shoddy weapon skins, make no mistake that this won’t mean the end of microtransactions. Predatory loot boxes have been due to take a battering for some time now, and now the real war will begin with the fixed-price, non-random in-game purchases.