“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high budget releases,” stated Senator Maggie Hassan during yesterday’s Congressional oversight meeting. And this isn’t just a problem with prevalence. Concerns regarding the potential correlation between loot boxes and a rise in young gamblers have led Federal Trade Commission chairman Joe Simons to accept Sen. Hassan’s request for loot boxes be investigated.
Some games are backing off of the loot box model, following fan demands. At this point, a lack of loot boxes has become a notable game feature. But these examples don’t mean the loot box boom is going to bust anytime soon. In fact, the research points to the opposite. As Hassan mentioned, a report done earlier this year claimed loot boxes “will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022.”
Plenty of regions around the world are putting their foot down, but there are a lot of grey in this ongoing debate. This FTC investigation aims to arrive at some conclusions.
Hassan’s loot box concern can be traced back to children, as “just this month Great Britain’s gambling commission released a report finding that 30% of children used loot boxes in video games.” The report added that exposure to loot boxes may “correlate with a rise in young problem gamblers in the United Kingdom.”
The age issue continues to perpetuate the idea that the ESRB should step in, and they have. However, its stance is more information based than age-based. It plans to add an in-game purchases label to titles that offer any digital purchases at all, including DLC.
As usual, laws and regulations are always one step behind, but hopefully the step that will be taken is something all of us can get behind.