The US Federal Trade Commission Agrees to Investigate Video Game Loot Boxes
After a request from New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, the Federal Trade Commission has agreed to investigate video game loot boxes. The agreement was made during a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing yesterday. While the overall issue in front of the committee was data privacy, the conversation diverted to loot boxes. "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.
"It's time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction and other negative impacts of these games." Hassan continued.
Hassan continued by saying that the presence of loot boxes in gaming directly affects children and that they represent a "close link to gambling". To bolster her argument, Hassan mentioned governmental debates going on in other countries including the UK, Belgium, Japan and Holland. In addition, she brought up Hawaiian State Representative Chris Lee's efforts in his state to curb the influence of loot boxes.
When asked if the FTC would step in to investigate the issue, Chairman Joe Simmons answered "Yes" without further elaboration.
Earlier this year, Senator Hassan had asked the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) to investigate the loot box controversy but without any results. With this new effort by the FTC, however, the ESA has had to respond. Polygon reached out to the ESA and received the following statement:
Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.
Read more at the link above and watch Senator Hassan below as she questions the FTC chairman.