United States Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) will be introducing a loot box ban bill in the near future. The Senator has become well-known for criticizing tech companies like Google and Facebook and he has often accused them of anti-conservative bias. Now, the Missouri senator is setting his sites on a different kind of technology: loot boxes and microtransactions.
Kotaku reports that Senator Hawley is planning to introduce "The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act" to the United States Senate. Press materials announcing the bill highlighted Candy Crush as one of the more egregious examples of microtransactions that will be tackled by the loot box ban bill; one of the game's bundles clocks in at $150 for a boatload of in-game items.
A press release from Senator Hawley regarding the loot box ban bill highlights the areas he'd specifically like to target:
The most abusive such practices are:"Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences," said Senator Hawley in the same press release. Ostensibly, the bill is going to mandate some sort of age gate similar to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that was made into law in the late 90s.
• Pay to win: Pay-to-win games take two forms. In some cases, designers engineer games with artificial difficulty curves to induce players to spend money on upgrades simply to progress. These games are often offered for free, enticing players to download and even offering them a false sense of progression upon initial download before artificially increasing difficulty to induce compulsive purchases. In other cases, designers create multiplayer games offering players who purchase paid upgrades competitive advantages over other players.
• Loot boxes: Loot boxes, incorporated both in free and paid games, offer players randomized rewards for spending money, combining the addictive properties of pay-to-win with the compulsive behavior inherent in other forms of gambling.
In other areas of the government, the Federal Trade Commission is going to be holding a public workshop on the topic of loot boxes this August. It may be rendered entirely irrelevant if Senator Hawley's bill passes or it may lead to regulation of its own sort should the bill fail to get enough votes.
We won't know more about the bill until it hits the Senate floor and becomes part of public record, but it seems like Senator Hawley has a good grasp of the concerns that his constituents (and many others) have about loot boxes in games that children play. Whether or not the loot box ban bill will have enough votes to pass (and whether or not President Trump will sign it) is another matter entirely.
What do you think of the loot box ban bill that is going to be introduced by Senator Hawley? Do you think he's on the right track with The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act? What do you think of it expanding to restrict microtransactions like Pay to Win? Let us know in the comments below!