A bill proposed by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley to prohibit the use of microtransactions in games has been making its rounds on the internet today. The bill looks to outright ban the purchase of loot boxes or pay-to-win style practices in any game that is designed for or played by a minor. This comes in response to developers incorporating various means to encourage players to spend extra money in-game after previously purchasing the game (or downloading it for free). Many players, and government agencies around the world, feel that these inclusions target younger players specifically and take advantage of their ability to engage in in-game purchases.
Senator Hawley’s bill, “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act,” describes loot boxes as “Microtransactions offering randomized or partially randomized rewards to players.” The bill also defines pay-to-win practices as “Manipulation of a game’s progression system […] to induce players to spend money on microtransactions to advance through content supposedly available to them at no additional cost.” Publishers or developers in violation of this law (if it were to pass) would be subject to incrimination by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for taking part in an “unfair trade practice.”
The ESA Responds To The Proposed Microtransaction/Loot Box Bill:
In a response sent to Kotaku by the Entertainment Software Association, the ESA noted that they sent a statement over to Senator Hawley regarding a lack of necessity for this legislation. The ESA also issued a response that explains:
“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.”
While this statement does nothing to stop the bill from finding its way to the Senate, it does highlight the fact that loot boxes are not seen as tools used to manipulate players to gamble. This view on microtransactions is shared by governments around the world, as indicated in the response above. Whether or not the ESA’s comments will have any sway on the bill remains to be seen. We will likely see an update to this story in the coming weeks.