The FTC Is Investigating Loot Boxes, and the ESA Has Responded

US FTC commits to investigating loot boxes in video games By Keshav Bhat

US FTC commits to investigating loot boxes in video games By Keshav Bhat

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has chose to investigate loot boxes in video games. In a US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked the FTC if it would investigate loot boxes, stating that they have now become "endemic in the video game industry". She referenced a recent United Kingdom study that found 30% of children have engaged with loot boxes in games, and how that could later lead to problem gambling for some. Referencing a Juniper Research report from earlier this year, Hassan says loot boxes will be a $50 billion industry by 2022.

However, just because loot boxes have no "real-world value", it doesn't mean that they don't cost "real-world" currency.

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Democratic senator Maggie Hassan issued an official request for the investigation during a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing on November 27. While the Aussie report acknowledges, and even sympathizes with, the economic realities of the video game industry, it ultimately found loot boxes to be a legitimate risk. The Australian government will also be launching a deeper investigation into the effects of loot boxes in video games. Critics of loot boxes fear that it's a predatory practice that essentially exposes children to the idea of gambling.

A number of news headlines are out today saying the FTC will "investigate" loot boxes, but we should note the agency doesn't appear to have given a full indication as of yet regarding the details here.

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This is particularly concerning-especially from a regulatory standpoint-when loot boxes make their way into kid's games.

Senator Hassan has attempted to tackle loot boxes prior to this incident; she sent a letter straight to the ESRB to request a further pry into loot boxes and how they should be rated. Now we may get some resolution to the question of "Are loot boxes a gateway to gambling?" here in the States.

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After last year's debacle with Battlefront II and loot boxes, multiple governments from different countries have taken to investigating whether or not microtransactions constitute gambling in games. It all started toward the end of 2017, when EA's heavy-handed loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2 caused a ton of controversy and eventually forced EA to backtrack. "They can enhance the experience. but have no impact on those who do not".

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