United States consumer watchdog to investigate video game loot boxes

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The UK Gambling Commission has previously said that loot boxes 'blur the lines" between video games and gambling and pledged, along with 13 other European commissions and the Washington State Gambling Commission to "thoroughly analyse' how loot boxes are created to ensure they comply with gambling laws.

"Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smart phone games to the newest, high budget releases", Hassan said. And Australian lawmakers held a series of hearings on the issue this year, culminating in a report to the Australian Senate finding that loot boxes risk exacerbating "gambling disorders" among some players. She also noted that such microtransactions could "represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022".

The FTC has stated it will investigate loot boxes at the request of Senator Maggie Hassan. "Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling", the ESRP told Polygon.

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While loot-boxes are a trend worth investigating, basing the inspection on an untrue assumption about a link between them and a child's future gambling habits isn't the best reason. Though EA seems to be standing strong on loot boxes in general, there have been some other publishers who have reconsidered loot boxes in their own games. Now, several countries have enacted regulations on random loot, and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has now pledged to look into it.

If the Senator's concerns are for children playing the game, then a more unsafe part of it might be that, since children paying for loot boxes generally have access to a form of money, they're more vulnerable to scam sites and credit card thieves. According to Polygon, Hassan said that children are especially vulnerable to the appeal of loot boxes, which is worrying given how close they are to gambling. This undertaking would see the FTC work to see what effects loot boxes have on kids, and to inform parents about potential dangers including addiction.

Now, they're after loot boxes. Meanwhile, the Entertainment Software Association contends that loot boxes are not gambling because they "have no real-world value". 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. The ESRB continues to defend them as "enhancements" to videogame experiences, and it's quite clear the "AAA" game industry has no intention of regulating itself, even in the face of possible outside intervention.

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