FTC Workshop Details the Massive Scope of the Loot Box Problem

Published: August 14, 2020 3:40 PM /


FTC loot box workshop cover

A "Staff Perspective Paper" based on the recent FTC loot box workshop has been released, neatly summarizing the scope of the problem with this form of microtransactions. If you're hoping for government action, however, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

"As the workshop revealed, the video game monetization system is a complex space that incorporates a wide range of mechanics," the paper stated. "Emerging research is starting to provide important insights regarding the impact of these mechanics on businesses and consumers, and staff supports additional academic research in this area."

The document [PDF] — Titled "FTC Video Game Loot Box Workshop - Staff Perspective" — is a great resource for neatly summarizing the arguments and counter-arguments given regarding the loot box problem. Many people (myself included) have been following this topic for some time, especially as countries like the United Kingdom are making calls for more regulation.

Some companies have already taken the initiative to change or improve their loot box systems. Overwatch, for example, drastically cut down on duplicate items and revealed the drop rates for loot boxes. Newer releases like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare eschewed loot boxes entirely, opting instead to use a battle pass system.

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Will the FTC Loot Box Workshop Result in Government Regulation?

Here's the big question: will the FTC loot box workshop result in any government action? That's something that's a little more complex.

Governments tend to be slow about enacting laws or changing regulations unless there is a pressing emergency. While the occasional parent has had to dispute a $2,000 charge on a mobile game, this isn't exactly a national crisis threatening the republic, either.

"[The] public raises significant questions about loot boxes, including the adequacy of descriptors and disclosures prior to purchase, whether the mechanics promote compulsive behavior, and how to communicate information effectively to parents and children," the paper continues. "Since the workshop, the video game industry has taken steps to enhance self-regulation, including through odds and point-of-purchase disclosures."

"[FTC] Staff encourages industry to continue efforts to provide clear and meaningful information to consumers about in-game loot box and related microtransactions. The FTC will continue to monitor developments surrounding loot boxes and take appropriate steps to prevent unfair or deceptive practices."

So, there you have it: there won't be any immediate action taken regarding loot boxes. For now, you can read the Staff Paper or check out the full transcription [PDF] of the FTC loot box workshop to see what was talked about in detail. The industry is surely just as aware of what was discussed, too — while we might not get any explicit regulation just yet, it's likely that developers and publishers will be much more cautious about loot boxes going forward.

What do you think of the conclusions reached in the FTC loot box workshop? Are you disappointed that the U.S. government hasn't yet decided to regulate the practice? Let us know in the comments below!

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A photograph of TechRaptor Senior Writer Robert N. Adams.
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One of my earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I… More about Robert N