Loot boxes have now been in the spotlight for a number of years, upsetting everyone from educators and parents to the gamers themselves.
Now, it looks like real action may soon be taken against these quasi-gambling vehicles as the US Federal Trade Commission is planning to investigate loot boxes.
On Tuesday, Senator Maggie Hassan (D – NH), who has raised concerns about loot boxes in the past, brought up the issue to chairman Joseph Simmons during a US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing, calling the boxes “endemic.”
“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget video game releases,” Hassan said. “Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022, according to the latest research estimates. Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games.”
Michael Gallagher, who is the president of the Entertainment Software Association, however, which oversees the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) that would conduct the review, notably said last May that he doesn’t believe loot boxes are connected to gambling and self-regulation would suffice.
Hassan disagrees with the idea of self-regulation, particularly citing concerns over the impact of loot boxes on children.
Further concern over loot boxes has been driven by a recent public study of over 7,400 gamers that found “important links between loot box spending and problem gambling.” Published by the Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee (ECRC), the survey was written in response to a scholarly journal published in Nature Human Behaviour, titled, “Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling.”
The findings support prior claims that loot boxes are “psychologically akin to gambling.” The report went on to note that “these results also suggest that there is a serious risk for loot boxes to cause gambling-related harm.”
Despite the ESA’s reluctance to further investigate an in-game reward system projected to sap $50 billion from a largely underage customer base, it seems that chairman Simmons will now force the matter to address Hassan’s concerns.