On Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley (Republican – Missouri), announced that he will introduce legislation that will ban loot boxes and pay to win microtransactions. Currently named the “Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act”, the Act, if approved, would prohibit features that allow players to pay real world money to advance in the game (pay-to-win), or receive a random reward (loot boxes).
Loot boxes are received when a player uses real money to purchase an in-game item that gives a random reward. Pay-to-win is a feature where the player can pay real money in order to advance in the game in some form, such as level ups, stronger equipment, or stronger skills. These implementations strategies have come under fire lately for encouraging gambling behavior, as well as cheapening the gaming experience. Both of these strategies have been prominent in mobile games, but have also appeared in big budget titles such as Overwatch and PUBG.
“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 said. “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 put out a statement rejecting Hawley’s proposal, citing that numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling.
The Senator is expected to introduce the bill in the next few days.