Hawaii Attorney General: Self-Regulate Loot Box Nonsense Otherwise We’ll Be Forced to Legislate Them

While loot boxes and similar in-game microtransactions have been a thing in the gaming industry for some time now, they really haven’t been abused until recently like the shenanigans with Star Wars Battlefront II or the fact that Belgium’s Gaming Commission literally investigated the entire debacle. Now, United States legislators are investigating the loot boxes, and they aren’t happy.

The Attorney General of Hawaii is considering introducing legislation to ban the sale of games that include loot crate mechanics like that of Star Wars Battlefront II, if the gaming industry doesn’t start regulating itself first. The state representatives are describing the entire scheme as predatory, and that it exposes children to the dangers of gambling.

“The fear when you introduce government legislation into private enterprise is that we are going to overreach,” Hawaii State Rep. Sean Quinlan said to Glixel. “That is my fear. Ultimately, it’s best for the industry to self-police.”

Quinlan, a gamer himself, hopes that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board addresses loot boxes and microtransactions in video games with higher ratings and warning labels.

“The ideal solution would be for the game industry to stop having gambling or gambling-like mechanics in games that are marketed to kids,” he said. Despite this hope, he doesn’t really expect Electronic Arts doing something like this on their own.

“I know they have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but I think they have a responsibility to customers too,” he said. “So the ESRB could say that if a game has loot crates, it gets a 21-plus rating. I wouldn’t want it to be a federal law. I think that could be a very slippery slope.”

Quinlan went on to explain how this type of gacha mechanic has been a long time coming for the industry. “We’ve been on this path for 15 years with day-one DLC, subscription passes, pay-to-win. We as consumers kept accepting that, kept buying those games. Now we’re at a place where we need to consider, do we need to legislate? Does the ESRB have to consider a new rating that could deal with gambling and addictive mechanics?”

It’s worth noting that Quinlan pointed to his fellow state legislator, Chris Lee (also a long time gamer), who also came across the issue on Reddit and contacted Quinlan to discuss what they could and should do. “Full credit to Representative Chris Lee,” he said. “It didn’t register that we could make a difference.”

In the wake of the entire uproar following the discovery of these loot crate shenanigans in the game, Electronic Arts’ stock has lost $3 billion in value during the month of November.

How do you feel about the entire situation? Should the ESRB start regulating and essentially (probably) banning games with what most agree to be gambling? Should state legislators step in to guarantee that it actually happens? Sound off in the comments below!

Brandon Orselli

About

Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.

  • Kansokusha

    This guy Quinlan sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Everyone would do well to listen.

  • darkgamer001

    While I’m with the rest of you guys who’d love nothing better than to see EA tank, I’m also old enough to be wary of politicians using the “think of the children!” mantra.

    Hint – they probably won’t stop at lootboxes if they start to legislate. Sometimes, you just have to wonder if there is a bigger evil than EA lurking in the background here. I could just be paranoid, true….but maybe it’s just not being naive.

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    All people want the government to do is just say “You can’t lock things players want into boxes they have to pay for”, bottom line, we don’t want “regulation” we just want microtransactions to fuck off by like 50%.

  • Mr0303

    I’m genuinely impressed by how reasonable Mr. Quinlan is. He is saying that the rating boards should’ve handled loot boxes and now we’re at a point where the government may get involved and he’d want to avoid that if possible. Major props to him. I guess this is what happens when you put actual reasonable gamers in positions of power.

    Now the ball is with the rating boards and the publishers.

  • edge

    I’m also afraid of this. Especially with how countries have been handling niche or lewd games.

  • Madbrainbox

    “Sometimes, you just have to wonder if there is a bigger evil than EA lurking in the background”
    Yeah.It’s called Activision.

  • totenglocke

    I say the the ESRB should make any game with loot boxes or other gambling AO. Since no physical retail store will carry AO games, that would essentially ban them without getting politicians involved. Barring that, maybe the government should force any game with gambling mechanics to follow the same regulations as online gambling sites.

  • OSad

    Personally, I don’t think more government regulation is the answer to something as innocuous as this, even though I don’t live in the US or belgium. Call me a bit of a conspiracy nut, but I get real scared at the thought of big government stepping in to regulate something that should be warned against on a lower level.

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    or just bring back expansion packs and put significant amounts of content into one-time purchases, no boxes, no scams. The ‘lootbox’ idea is exclusively anti-consumer. It’s simply a tactic some corporate executive came up with and it wasn’t heinous enough in its original form to avoid being normalized.

  • BFG

    Sounds like the recipe for disasters towards games that have gambling mechanics but no impact in your wallet (as in, using in-game currency, and no micro-transactions)

    Wishing government’s involvement on such matter is like wishing on a monkey’s paw

  • Madbrainbox

    Yeah but sadly these mechanics are usually very profitable so they won’t quit unless forced.

  • iswear12

    EA is full of retards.
    I hope this just scares them into losing money; it’d be nice if lootboxes got regulated and the government would immediately back off afterwards but now that its actually here… I’m hesitant.
    I don’t wanna see an “ESRB for video game gambling” show up and fuck up vidya even more with its barriers and bullshit.

  • iswear12

    Tencent is a much bigger evil than most everyone in the gaming industry, in fact they hold a large amount of shares in acti-blizz and nobody talks about them https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e29c456e561afe78bf22e870212a482e5f8aa931b15de9c889d255258669deb8.jpg

  • iswear12

    I’d prefer it if they fucked off about 80-100% tbh

  • InkViper

    Back in the 80s, the parental advisory label aided in the protection of the music industry from potential legal legislation, it was voluntary, and independent of any governmental body and legislation, and it worked. Some think along these lines could be beneficial.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/Parental_Advisory_label.svg/1200px-Parental_Advisory_label.svg.png

  • AnarKreig

    Let’s just see if the incompetent bastards over at the ESRB will do anything about this.

  • Travis Touchdown

    Give them your power.

    We need to establish what is an isn’t an acceptable microtransaction.

  • Mr0303

    Upvoting your own comments. Pretty sad.

  • Kiryu

    This is how far the AAA industry has come with their greed.They either self regulate or big government gets involved.

  • catazxy

    Not incompetent, but paid off by corporations like EA

  • Uncle Ocelot

    Here’s a hint: take a look at the members of the ESA, there’s your answer.

  • Israel Reyes

    I know how the mere mention of “government regulation” is a big trigger among the right… but isn’t it sad how it had to come down to this in the first place? Isn’t the need for ultimatums sad? Well, the industry has proven time and time again to be unwilling to moderate themselves, so someone else has to come do it for them. If they want to act like children, then they’ll be treated like such.

    The “invisible hand” is not only dead, it never existed. Asshattery is basic human nature, that’s why we need limits. Get over it.

  • RichardGristle

    “The fear when you introduce government legislation into private enterprise is that we are going to overreach,” Hawaii State Rep. Sean Quinlan said to Glixel. “That is my fear. Ultimately, it’s best for the industry to self-police.”

    Holy shit, even he gets it. What I’ve been saying all along.

    Sort yourselves out, you trash AAA companies!

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    I meant like, within the realm of feasibility, this shit is never going away but we just need it to stop being quite as atrocious as it is right now

  • CrimsonColossus

    “B-but why convince gamers to practice self-control when we can just make the government legislate the problem away?!”

  • totenglocke

    Dumbass, please learn how to read. Then apologize for being dumb enough to miss the first 3/4 of my post.

  • orbo

    When the government gets involved, it generally does so in the worst way and even this guy gets it not wanting to jump the gun on just throwing the government at the problem.
    And yet that’s at the point we’re at.
    Also like this guy said, despite this warning he doesn’t expect EA to actually self regulate properly or at all, and he’s right.
    If EA is going this far for profit then they have absolutely no credibility for self regulation, at best they’ll just rebrand the lootbox scheme to something else in the hopes people don’t catch on, people will because their consumers aren’t just meat with eyes like EA seems to think, and then comes big papa government to put its foot down for good.

  • Rough

    Game devs, please, do NOT let government regulate your games.
    Do your thang.
    Please.

  • Riosine

    Oh it’s simple cause the AAA industry broke the laws when they sneaked gambling mechanic into a game and skipped proper gambling taxing

  • Riosine

    Of course it will be worst for the AAA industry, cause their infringing game will get insta banned and will have to pay a huge fine afterwand then resubmit the infringing games without the real money gambling mechanics along a huge hit in their PR in the process.

  • Arenegeth

    I’m not sure that the government stepping in would be so bad in this case, especially given the way the ESRB has handled self-regulating for all these years as a comparison.

    I mean we all hated Jack Thomson, but all he really wanted to do, was making the selling of 18+ rated games to minors illegal (something that was the case in countries like the UK for the longest of time, until the BBFC got sidelined for PEGI) when the ESRB itself has being stifling creativity between itself, the big three and big retail chains for decades, by making an entire rating (AO) pretty much the death knell for any game that received it and purposefully marketing games intended for adults, (like Call of Duty) to children. That doesn’t mean the government wouldn’t do worse, especially given the mood post Columbine back in the 90’s.

    But that’s for game ratings and potential censorship which is far more important, but Lootboxes?

    What is the benefit of Lootboxes to gamers? None, is not even a gameplay mechanic, is an exploitative monetization scheme, designed around the Skinner box experiment and taking advantage of consumer impulses and especially people with disorders and/or children.

    What’s the worst the government can do, ban them altogether? Tax the motherfucking AAA cunts so much and bury them in red tape until they go back to making and selling, whole proper games again?

    Oh the horror! Billionaires that have nickle’d and dime’d us for years might make less money, will someone think of the their golden parachutes!

  • ProfessorFluffy

    If anything, they should at least push to get EA labeled as a terrorist organization. They’ve probably killed enough (studios) to warrant it.

  • Some the blame is on the casual gamers.

  • All that would do is make the games PC only.

  • BFG reading comprehension is about the level of an 1st grader. Ironic as he claimed to be a teacher at one point.

  • Remind me of Roy and ISISpedocream.

  • alex9234

    LOL, good one. But anyway, I was thinking that they should push for an antitrust lawsuit against EA.

  • alex9234

    “I mean we all hated Jack Thomson, but all he really wanted to do, was making the selling of 18+ rated games to minors illegal” – Oh, no, no, no. Don’t be fooled. Thompson really did want to ban video games altogether.

  • goodbyejojo

    hopefully it will hinder any potential company into who though to make a game around loot boxes and microtransactions, sadly, they are expected nowadays.

  • Arenegeth

    Did he? Only thing I remember him raving about was keeping all the violent games away form the kiddies. Maybe he wanted to ban violent video games altogether, but video games in general? Not only is that crazy stupid, but unrealistic, and I’m pretty sure I’d remember that.

    Then again most of the information we got about the man in general, was from everyone’s favorite ‘games journalists’. So god knows how accurate that was, I need to go back and take closer look to what his actual credos was.

    In any case, the reason I brought him up was to make the comparison, that even regulating games by making selling certain games to minors illegal, would not be so bad or even potentially better than the self-regulation (self censorship more-like) ESRB has being doing since its inception.

  • CrimsonColossus

    Buying a box with random shit in it is “gambling”?

    So when can I expect the holy legislation crusade against trading card booster packs and mystery boxes?

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    Most of the blame is on the casual gamers. If the casual audience didn’t throw money around just from a little coaxing; there’d be far less bullshit going on in the entertainment industry today.

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    “he claimed to be a teacher at one point”
    Wouldn’t surprise me if he actually is one.

  • Justin Williams

    I agree 100% but real content takes time and resources. These loot box scams are there to get quick cash with very little to no investment of resources by the company.

  • entropy

    Foodstuffs are required to list their ingredients on the packaging so consumers know what they are buying. The same should be true of games.

    Publishers should simply be required to disclose full details of all monetised mechanics before they are allowed to sell their games (which includes preorders and crowd sourcing).

    EA having to tell consumers in advance that it takes 40 hours of grinding (or real money) to unlock Vader would have affected orders and forced EA to address the issue prior to release.

    Likewise, publishers should have to tell consumers if they need to buy another 3 DLC just to finish the base story, and fully disclose the costs and statistical advantages of any monetised (p2w) gameplay elements.

  • totenglocke

    And who pays all of the bullshit fees? Console peasants. Not to mention even Steam doesn’t host any AO games.

  • Audie Bakerson

    I’d tell Pam Bondi to join him, but she’s worse than worthless.

  • totenglocke

    I guess you think slot machines aren’t gambling?

  • Audie Bakerson

    The ESRB is exactly that so…

  • random

    lmao yeah that’s always worked out historically right? The US definitely doesn’t have a huge history of shitty products and labour violations because of a lack of regulation.

  • InkViper

    Just floating an idea, as there’s no guarantee the ESRB are willing to deal with this or not, but I would like to hear what they have to say on the matter.

  • InkViper

    My comment, of course I’m going to like it.

  • OldPalpy

    ESRB tired to dismiss it before but they might change their tune as they certainly don’t want goverment regulation.

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    The problem is, EA can’t tell their investors that the absence of lootboxes on BF2 doesn’t affect the company’s fiscal earnings, and then also tell the fans “making games is expensive!” Marketing costs shouldn’t be falling on the shoulders of players, but it is.

  • InkViper

    Of course, anyone who’s smart knows government regulations are not always beneficial, Hell, the Hawaiian Atty. Gen. even believes this.

  • Mr0303

    Sure, but it’s pathetic to do so. Do you pat yourself on the back as well?

  • Colhgrax

    I disagree with this. Not the “are loot boxes gambling?” but with how they are going about it. If paying money for a random assortment of predetermined item is gambling, then it should apply to everything. Choosing to regulate this behavior in only video games annoys me. If they want to curb this, then the gambling laws should be amended so that any product that that does this is illegal or regulated.

  • InkViper

    Says the person that likes their own YouTube videos. Hypocrisy much!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d0b839c493b330a3cea2ce32b1dfc281ea7f44f3c5637589f96e89cf8696c2a1.jpg

  • The ESRB refused to classify loot boxes as gambling because they get a lot of money from AAA companies to have their games classified and given a rating. And I do mean a lot. Giving it an AO rating means companies would skip the rating altogether or just never release the game, which means the ESRB won’t get their cut. They’re more interested in ensuring they’ll still get money, hence why they didn’t want to self-regulate.

    Whelp, they can’t sit on their arses anymore.

  • Mr0303

    Ooh, I have a stalker. How nice. I guess I triggered you enough for you to look me up.

    I suppose gaming the YouTube algorithm where nobody can see who liked a video is equivalent to publicly liking your own comments.

  • InkViper

    Nop, Nothing personal, I do this to everyone I argue with, it call due diligence.

  • Mr0303

    Sure, I believe you.

  • InkViper

    You can try and try to wriggle out of it, doesn’t erase your hypocrisy.

  • Mr0303

    Even if I am a hypocrite I can still mock your pathetic self upvote.

  • InkViper

    You can try, but that would require having actual integrity, which you clearly don’t as your hypocrisy has seen to that.

  • Mr0303

    No, it wouldn’t require that. Nothing actually prevents me from laughing at your actions.

  • InkViper

    So you not just a hypocrite, you’re also stupid, K.

  • Mr0303

    Calling somebody stupid with grammar issues in your post. Now that’s rich.

  • InkViper

    Oh, look Mr. hypocrite is trying to take the intellectual high ground. I’m so scared.

  • Mr0303

    Oh, look Mr. Stalker is trying to deflect the irony of his post.

  • InkViper

    Lol…. I don’t think you get it, after seeing your blatant hypocrisy nothing from this point on as far as I’m concerned that you could possibly say is now worth a damn, so please continue I’m quite happy to string you on as long as you want.

  • Mr0303

    Your opinion means nothing to me too, Mr Stalker.

  • InkViper

    I doubt your opinion has any value to yourself as well, Mr. Hypocrisy.

  • Mr0303

    I value my opinion, but unlike you I don’t publicly upvote my own posts.

  • InkViper

    No you just up vote yourself on YouTube, then act like your shit doesn’t stink.

  • Mr0303

    I least I just shit in my own toilet. Pointing and laughing at the pile of poo you made in a public space was rather enjoyable.

  • InkViper

    You can try your best to deflect, doesn’t erase the fact you got court out. Me on the other hand, I don’t particularly care what people think if they see me up for my own comments, after all I made them, of course I’m going to favor them, dummy.

  • Mr0303

    I’m not deflecting anything. I’m just pointing out that publicly upvoting your own opinion is funny. It’s like stating that you agree with yourself, which is redundant. Perhaps it is not for you. When you don’t upvote your own comment does it mean that you are not in complete agreement with yourself?

  • InkViper

    Actually it’s ego, plus gameing the system right, but at least it’s not hypocrisy.

  • Mr0303

    So your ego needs reinforcement. Now there’s a shocker. If you wanted to game the system right you could’ve upvoted your comment with an alt account.

    Also you keep saying hypocrisy, but I don’t upvote my own comments, so if we want to be nit picky about it I’m not mocking you for something that I’m doing.

  • InkViper

    Well if I had a alt account, that would make me look like a snake piece of shit, you know, how like someone criticizes someone for up voting themselves, when they do it to their own YouTube channel.

  • Mr0303

    How would it make you look like a snake piece of shit when people wouldn’t know that it’s in fact you? I thought you wanted to boost your ego and game the system? Why not do it efficiently? Or is it laziness?

    Given that the two actions are different I have no issue with mocking you.

  • InkViper

    Being Efficient would just be hitting the up vote button instead of logging out to another account, and hypocrites don’t get to mock people when they court doing the same.

  • Mr0303

    Or you could do both. I guess laziness supersedes your need for an ego boost.

    We already established that I was not doing the same thing, but I do like taking care of my court.

  • InkViper

    You establish nothing, other than a pathetic defense, and as for you claiming you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve already as good as confessed your a goddamn hypocrite. Not that it’s necessary as I’ve already proven it.

  • Mr0303

    What I said is factual. I was not doing the same thing. There is nothing that I have to defend here. You’ve proven that I liked some of my videos, not my comments. As I said before – this doesn’t prevent me from mocking your behaviour.

    Also – who is my goddamn hypocrite? I’ll have you know that I possess no such person. In fact I’m against slavery.

  • Riosine

    You just got uncovered as well so stop arguing who is more sneaky and Just give the damn kitten a Thumb up-job. his ego need to be fingered

  • Mr0303

    He can do it himself, can’t he?

  • Casey

    Explains a lot about our daycar-I mean education system.

  • Casey

    He was loony. He even claimed that Bully was making kids gay among other nonsense. Nonsense that forced a judge to warn him that he might hold him in contempt if he didn’t get his shit together. He was disbarred later, so yeah… completely nutty.

  • BFG

    That still didnt make my last point irrevelant about how wanting the government involved doesnt necessarily lead to good results

    I see you’re quite the sympathetic folk though

  • Kakaku

    Self-regulation is ideal. Government mandates could be too strict or over reaching. Right now though the ESRB and PEGI haven’t done anything about microtransactions. EA is still considering bringing them back in a more “benign” way. Even after 3 billion lost. Might come to that.

    Smack an AO or refusing rating altogether seems like it would solve the problem, but companies that don’t necessarily answer to the ESRB like Tencent can still fly under the radar.

  • BFG

    I never been affiliated to the american/england system, though I’m aware of the issues from what I’ve heard

  • Shattno

    I can understand his fear of overreaching government legislation, but at the same time I don’t think self regulation will work, simply because it’s not in the best interests of the companies.
    My solution would be to tax games like these as you would tax gambling, that would lower the profit and thus lower the incentive to have these mechanics in games.

  • Kakaku

    About what percent would you suggest. I get the feeling that the profit of lootboxes would outweigh the lose of a tax.

  • Shattno

    I honestly don’t know, I’m not a tax expert or an economist, but the reason loot boxes are profitable are, at least to some extent, because microtransactions get a tax break. This is clearly not the intention. It’s like if a casino could skip paying tax if the gamblers only bet a dollar at a time.

  • VLOCKUP

    I’m glad I never any of mentioned games at all haha.

    Filthy casuals.

  • It would explain his constant virtue signaling.

  • Bassgs

    I see a lot of people missing a key point when talking about loot box regulation and that is the fact that we are talking about a system completely controlled by companies like EA. After seeing their shady patents, what’s going to stop them from advertising a powerful weapon or skill in the loot boxes and making it so only 10 or 20% of the game’s population ever has a chance of getting it? They could always blame it on “bad luck” while milking the oblivious whales dry.

    I could be wrong, but I’ve not seen anyone discussing this possibility over here and apparently this stuff happened before in the homeland of the loot boxes, Japan’s mobile market.

  • grgspunk

    I couldn’t give two fucks about the children. The fact that it’s an anti-consumer business model should be a sufficient reason to ban this shit with extreme prejudice.

    And if we’re talking about slippery slopes here, let’s extend this ban towards IAPs for mobile freemium “games”.

  • InkViper

    Take the L, and move on kid.

  • InkViper

    How dare you Sir.

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    Here’s the problem, okay: You have companies who make it their jobs to continuously find ways to keep the “IV needle” of their game firmly in place, with ongoing purchases, DLC, season passes, and lootboxes.

    But there are not enough gamers, comparatively, with the willpower to remove that IV drip themselves. And companies know this. So the average person’s willpower never really gets any stronger to resist this crap, while the techniques and the aggressiveness with which they are forced is getting stronger all the time.

  • Mr0303

    Take the D and continue.

  • InkViper

    Take the L and move on kid, you lost this one.

  • Mr0303

    Is that your mantra? Do you need to repeat this to calm yourself or did you simply break?

  • InkViper

    Your and inconsistent, backtracking, proven hypocrite! Take the L.

    https://media.tenor.com/images/7bcccd99b30ccaf0e9126ecda5cfd20a/tenor.gif

  • Mr0303

    I haven’t done any backtracking, cupcake. It was just fun mocking you. Are you going to repeat your L nonsense again to validate your ego?

  • That explains everything. What country was you born in?

  • InkViper

    Claim you didn’t do nothing, then admitted to your hypocrisy, then backtracked on that! Take the L, and move on kid.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/690692962196549633/f4_VMn4A.jpg

  • Mr0303

    You may need some visual aid. I never admitted to anything. There was nothing to admit. I clearly stated that I haven’t accused you of something I did myself.

    Also you keep calling me kid and yet you are trying to convince yourself that I lost some game that you made up the rules of. Seems pretty childish to me.

  • InkViper

    Keep crying as you take the L, kid.

  • Mr0303

    “Waah, waah! You lose at the game I made up! Take the L, kid.”

  • InkViper

    Take the L, kid, Like the little bitch that you are.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CLNkHNmWcAAaniQ.jpg

  • Mr0303

    Ask nicely and I might consider it.

  • InkViper

    Wrong, You’ll take the L because I say so.

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/IQDz2dMwqk4/hqdefault.jpg

  • Mr0303

    No I won’t. Grovel some more though. It’s fun watching your tantrum.

  • InkViper
  • Mr0303

    Such an obedient little pussy.

  • InkViper

    You can’t live by your own standards, take the L.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DN_UdLFVAAEMLVq.jpg

  • Mr0303

    I know you desperately need my validation, but even you should’ve figured out by now that it’s not going to happen.

  • InkViper

    The L, you will take.

    https://i.imgur.com/iFYeSMi.gif