Junior United States Senator (R-MO) Josh Hawley has introduced a bill to ban loot boxes and other pay-to-win practices in games. The "Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act" would ban pay-to-win initiatives in 'games played by minors'. The aforementioned label, Hawley states, includes games designed for children, but also games Hawley says, 'whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions.'
The Federal Trade Commission began investigating lootboxes and other microtransactions last fall following outcry over increasingly frequent utilization of pay-to-win practices. While some games have pulled back on their pay-to-win initiatives, popular games such as Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive continue to utilize lootboxes. The two aforementioned games, while not exclusively for children, are popular with both adults and minors alike.
Hawley, who has been critical of tech giants like Facebook and Google, seems to have had enough.
"Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits," Hawley explained. "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."
The Entertainment Software Association responded in a statement after the introduction of Hawley's bill:
The Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry lobbyist group, sent over a statement shortly after this bill was introduced: “Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. 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.
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