US State Rep Proposing Legislation to Prohibit Sale of Games With Lootboxes to Anyone Under 21

We previously reported on the micro-transaction and lootbox debacle in the gaming industry, which actually caught the attention of lawmakers and state officials. Now, the very same Hawaii state representative is proposing legislation to prohibit the sale of games with the aforementioned loot boxes and microtransactions.

Hawaii Rep. Chris Lee previously said that most games including loot box mechanics are the same thing as gambling, in particular he pointed to Star Wars Battlefront 2 when he said the game is basically “a Star Wars-themed online casino.” Now Lee is proposing legislation to curb “predatory gaming practices,” which he briefly outlines in the above video.

Among the basics of what Lee is considering featured in the video is enacting laws to prohibit the sale of video games containing “gambling mechanisms” to anyone under the age of 21, the same kind of law(s) established for traditional gambling. The law(s) would cover any game where players are purchasing a “percentage chance” to get an in-game item over the item itself.

Lee also notes that this law would cover both games purchased at retail and games obtained digitally via Steam and GOG, a point made because ESRB/PEGI ratings are not mandatory for digital storefronts.

Some game developers have already sworn off loot boxes and microtransactions that affect gameplay. However, Lee isn’t convinced that the Entertainment Software Association (the group that represents the gaming industry as a whole) or the ESRB will self-regulate these forms of gambling, as they’ve actually dismissed the suggestion that loot boxes are gambling.

Lee is even looking into legislating the rate at which developers can manipulate success percentages in games via an “accountability piece,” which he says would force game developers to reveal the percentages of drop rates for items in these loot boxes so players dumping more money into the game aren’t being fished at lower rates..”

The rest of the video has Lee asking his fellow gamers to write to their elected officials and “ask them to consider taking action to protect local families and particularly underage youth from predatory gaming practices.”

How do you feel about the entire issue? Should elected officials step in before game developers put even more components of a game behind loot box and microtransactions? 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.

  • Mr0303

    That seems fair and could be a major blow to loot boxes as a practice. If the industry wants to properly respond to the issue the rating boards and major publishers better do some 180 turns fast.

  • ActivistZero

    Thanks EA, because of your greed we’ve got the Government involved in gaming now.

    I only hope other companies ditch loot boxes quickly before they put in even more restrictions

  • Mr0303

    Also I must compliment Chris Lee for being able to find an issue where gamers and the general public agree on and act like a proper representative. Most politicians wouldn’t be that adaptable and sly.

  • Amethyst Eclipse

    You can almost hear the hordes of Disney lawyer preparing to storm EA. Dear MSN make sure you put “Stars Wars themed casino” in your headlines while you figured our your narrative, well the outlets that aren’t Mickey Mouse “approved”.

    Dear games industry get your shit together or this won’t end well for any of you.

  • goodbyejojo

    hopefully EA’s uncontrollable lust for greed costs them the Star Wars license.

  • I hat elootboxes as much, no, probably MORE than anyone else on this planet, but this is ridiculous. This isn’t going to make games better, this is going to make everything worse. What we WANTED was for parents to stop giving their fucking credit cards to 13 year olds on CSGO, not government regulation of video games.

  • Madbrainbox

    Hopefully it cost them their company.

  • Madbrainbox

    Thank EA,Activision,WB and ESRB for this.

  • Madbrainbox

    They will probably only do something when forced.

  • Mr0303

    This is why we’re at this point. The ESA, the ESRB, PEGI and multiple publishers said that they don’t see loot boxes as gambling and suddenly when a politician offers a solution he gets major support.

  • Nin

    I wish that we didn’t have to resort to legislation, but at the very least, doing it for lootboxes is justified. It should stay state level like regular gambling is though, even that is enough of a legal disaster to make sure lootboxes see the light of day. The law also seems to affect gacha like FGO though. I think legislating gacha is justified, but as gacha isn’t nearly as controversial, I expect controversy. Candy Crush and similar games dying would be great though.

    The accountability piece is actually what regular casinos and gacha in general already do. The fact that EA didn’t bother doing that means that they are scum.

    I think it’s likely that the law doesn’t need to pass at all considering how poorly Battlefront sold, showing some influence on part of the market to not do lootboxes, but that’s optimistic on my part.

  • Tech Flum

    I’ll celebrate it from the heavens if it dissuades companies from being constant manipulative nickle and diming a-holes tbh, Or even just to give them pause for thought that they thought they could do whatever they wanted with no real repercussions.

  • Mr0303

    The thing is that while the backlash against BF2’s loot boxes made a dent games like Overwatch, Shadow of War and AC Origins still sell extremely well. So the failure of this individual game is hardly a permanent solution.

  • Madbrainbox

    Activision bought King for 5 $ billion to exploit these practices.5 $ billion down the drain if this will be put into law soon.:)

  • Travis Touchdown

    Lootboxes should be banned entirely.

  • Madbrainbox

    This would be one piece of legislation that will have a positive effect on the gaming industry.And while “won’t somebody think of the children!” is an attitude that is usually mocked,I think it is legitimate here.

  • Mr0303

    Agreed. I personally view loot boxes as gambling and I think they should be treated as such.

  • AnarKreig

    This is exactly what I’ve always wanted. Just regulate the gambling.

  • Donwel

    Just imagine how unpopular EA must be right now among other publishers and devs. They had a good thing going and then along comes EA and fucks it all up. I’d be fucking livid with them right now if I was a higher up at Activision.

  • totenglocke

    The ESRB could handle this real quick by rating any game with gambling as AO. But sleazy companies like EA pay them, so they won’t do shit about it. Since the industry will refuse to reign itself in, you can’t be surprised when pissed off people demand the government get involved.

  • totenglocke

    Because the ratings boards are funded by the major publishers. Of course they’re going to side with the publishers and against consumers.

  • iswear12

    Let’s see what happens.
    I wonder if EA and the other big gaming companies (looking at you chinese and mobile/gacha game companies) will start shelling out dough to politicians to make sure this doesn’t get passed.
    The ESA and ESRB too.

    Fuck the gaming industry is a shithole

  • Rough

    I’ve always had mixed feeling when it comes to lootboxes, mostly leaning against them. In this case, I just wish that things wouldn’t go the way it did, having governments involved and all.

    In the short-run, I hope it deters companies to seek different ways of capitalizing stuff, forcing them to dig deeper into their brains to search new ideas. What worries me now is that in the long run the goverment knows that they can dictate what’s okay and what’s not. Remember that one guy that has a really huge hateboner for GTA?

    I dunno, maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I still think that some aspect of this is still overblown :/

  • iswear12

    Consequentialism was a mistake. No personal sense of morality or ethics to be found in any of these companies.
    Its also incredible how many consumers choose to remain uninformed or not wield their power.
    I dunno what happened to the gaming market but its in the goddamn pits right now

  • Adohleas

    Force games with loot boxes to have an AO rating and that will instantly prevent them from being sold on consoles due to the no AO policy on consoles. That would force most AAA games to abandon it. The down side is PC will probably still have games using loot boxes because AO isn’t restricted there, but it will force a lot of games to not use them.

  • Madbrainbox

    In this case Karma is a bitch.:)

  • Jared Bellow

    Also shoutout to 2K.

  • Madbrainbox

    Yeah but they are using another type of steaming pile of shit.

  • Self-regulate, or the government will do it for you. It’s that simple.

  • CrusaderEsper

    AC Origins and Overwatch are completely playable without any lootboxes or other DLC purchases and you are no worse for the wear. But EA crossed the line by making the lootboxes in BF2 effect in-game power. That’s only acceptable if your game is free to play.

  • Squirrel on crack cocaine.

    Best gaming news I’ve heard since…well, ever to be honest. I really hope EA lose the Star Wars licence after this noise and it gets spread around rather then just one company getting full rights to it.

  • Thoon Thoon

    Sounds awesome. It won’t ban the shit outright so no games will suddenly go but it’ll make everyone who uses the pay for random shit model seriously reconsider what they’re doing. Encourages options.

  • Mr0303

    You can use the same reasoning for BF2 – you can play it without paying for loot boxes. While true that pay to win is worse (and one could argue that you can get better gear in AC Origins when paying), the roots of the issue are the same – these in-game purchases are preying on addiction and have no place in fully priced games.

  • Renaissance_nerd

    any time the government steps in… it’s bad. I hope the ESRB reconsiders and classifies games with these types of things AO (Adults only).

    we don’t want government oversight in video games trust me.

  • Warrior90
  • Renaissance_nerd

    most politicians dismiss the fact that the average age of a vido game player is 30+ we are voters and we don’t forget who helped us.

  • luggage lad

    This pushback is long overdue I feel. “Predatory gaming practices” is the best way to put it. These companies get to have you gamble your money on items after you’ve bought a $60 game, and then at their earliest convenience they can shut the game down and deny you the digital property you purchased. Free-to-play games let it slide, but we’ve seen how ugly this has gotten, and it continues to tank entire genres to the ground.

    I know it seems bad having legislation, but gamers as a whole are going to see vast positive changes after these sleazy tactics get regulated.

  • Renaissance_nerd

    What people are worried about (and justifiably so) is what the government does AFTER it gets it’s foot in the door. What potential censorship could come next, after all the government has been wanting to censor games for decades.

  • CrusaderEsper

    I get what you’re saying, but I was inundated with legendary gear in ACO so much that I was sharding them just to clear my inventory out.

  • luggage lad

    It sounds like ideologies at play saying that. Games are free speech and can’t be censored, this is more about gambling and trying to prey on minors.

    I’d be more hopeful of what may come after anyway. Digital distribution and ownership badly need consumer rights. This is a step in that direction as I see it.

  • Renaissance_nerd

    “Games are free speech and can’t be censored”

    Oh if only that were true. They can’t outright censor them but they can do round about things that equal it, like banning the sale of them, prohibiting their display etc. Don’t ever discount the governments ability to push the limits of the constitution we have seen it time and time again through history.

  • lucben999

    If only…

    But sadly I think they’re too big to crash because of one game, they survived the TORtanic after all.

  • JohnnyCageFan2

    More like don’t give your kids your credit card or banking details if they’re going to misuse them. If you want to stupidly spend your money on what’s virtual lucky packets, that’s your thing because you’re an adult.

  • JohnnyCageFan2

    You’d be treating the symptom in that case because there will always be something else.Those stupid, gullible fucks who can’t take responsibility for their actions should be banned from playing games instead.

  • Mr0303

    Totally agree. I think this is part of the reason that the GamerGate event politically awoke a large portion of gamers.

  • Feniks

    Ineffective.

    Look at all the 12 year old Burgerkids playing COD or GTA. IIRC stores in the US aren’t even allowed to ask for ID?

    Parents need to beat the shit out of kids who steal their money. My parents did ;)

  • heroyaldog

    government stepping in to protect consumers is how shit should work. if the industry doesn’t want this maybe they can stop fucking their customers.

  • heroyaldog

    this is why we can’t have nice things….regulation that prevents business from fucking their customer is WELCOMED!

  • heroyaldog

    Don’t ever discount corporations ability to push the limits of the constitution we have seen it time and time again through history.

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    My only hope is that this doesn’t bar casinos from RPGs if they only use in game currency you can’t buy with real money.

  • heroyaldog

    so child labor laws, requiring overtime pay, requiring businesses to not discriminate..etc..etc…..yeah all terrible things the government enacted

  • Madbrainbox
  • Madbrainbox

    It’s not about the money,it’s about the process.

  • Bea

    I hope not. I don’t like some of their practices but they have the license to a few games/series that I’d hate for them to hold onto as they sink preventing any possible sequels.

  • RichardGristle

    Nobody was getting fucked. Retards were making unwise purchasing decisions.

    Getting fucked is “buy health insurance or we’ll fine you” ;)

  • grgspunk

    Who cares about whether it’s “gambling” or not?

    Just ban games with lootboxes and other predatory monetization schemes outright on the basis that they’re anti-consumer, and let us take back our goddamned videogame market from these corporate fucktards.

  • Madbrainbox

    Well,THQ didn’t take anything into their grave.Now their many of their better IP’s are in better hands.I’d love to see Alice free from them.

  • Insanity_Norm

    No brainer, loot boxes are a form of gambling and it needs to be removed outright from video games.

  • Colonel Vine

    Never though I’d see the day I’d be in favor of government legislation with regards to video games. Nice work EA. You never fail to depress.

  • Nin

    That would be bad. I didn’t like the gambling gimmick in Pokemon, but it was a way of buying rare pokemon.

  • orbo

    When EA fucks up so hard that even those korean f2p mmos with those shitty gacha systems get blasted in the ass in the states.

    Ragnarok Online for example has been notorious for how luck based the real money services are since going free to play (“lucky” boxes, gear upgrading with real money upgrade items, etc)

    Free to play mmos are NOT going to like this if it passes.

  • random

    Because addiction isn’t real right?

  • random

    How on earth do you manage something as vast as video games regulation rating on a state level? That’s not even feasible when they don’t work like traditional goods and services.

  • random

    Regulation is important for all goods and services, you better believe you’d be getting fucked over if regulation wasn’t there.

    Also it’s not just about children, addiction can affect adults and their spending decisions in a harmful way as well.

  • iswear12

    >tfw you can’t force people to be responsible, informed consumers
    Its kinda funny. People just want to be uninformed, ignorant and uncaring and its fucking depressing

  • Bea

    Alice was the main title that I’m thinking about especially with McGee working towards trying to convince EA that people are interested in and wants Alice Asylum.

  • Jesse (RIP Iwata)

    It’s already shit that the ESRB exists, the last thing we need is more governmental bodies in this industry. Seriously, I know some think this is justified, but I disagree. As a market, we showed how bad these companies get it when they try to get away with shit practices. This is why EA is in such a shitstorm right now; we don’t need the government to do it for us.

  • Madbrainbox

    No way he’ll be able to make that with the way EA is right now.Of course they could find a way to fill the game with gambling garbage.

  • Gamegodtre

    doing this i forsee game devs pushing mobile game exoeriences on ppl shoving the loot boxes in there then letting you take stuff from the mobile game and sending it to the console game….. damn i just found a work around, maybe i to can work at EA

  • Gamegodtre

    overtime pay???? where i work if you dont finish the job on time you punch out go back to work and finish the job or you get writen up for not doing said job or just fired outright for not getting it done.

  • SLoWMoTIoN

    So is Overwatch fucked now?

  • JohnnyCageFan2

    Fucking true. And they all of a sudden care when it affects them all the while pretending not to be part of the reason why it got so bad.

  • JohnnyCageFan2

    As in “Don’t be so obviously money-grabby”?

  • Madbrainbox

    As in “we’re going to create systems that are designed to get people addicted to gambling even if they don’t spend any money and then put them in products easily accessible to children.”.
    The loss of money is a big problem in gambling but what’s equally worse is the addiction.

  • JohnnyCageFan2

    I will agree with you that they’re taking advantage of kids, especially those trusted by their parents or are loosely reigned. But I disagree with government regulation, it’s going to be Pandora’s Box.

    Perhaps they should bump the age rating for the game (not AO as suggested) or lock out the feature based on the user’s age as specified in their account.

  • Madbrainbox

    I agree that these would be the optimal solutions to this problem.But ESRB already declared this trash to not be gambling as to not piss off the people that pay them.Yes,before government involvement,other people were the ones that were responsible to restrict this garbage.From the games rating boards to publishers and developers.But they won’t do it because they like the money they get.

  • Bea

    Not gambling but DLCs which I wouldn’t mind so much if the DLC content was worth it. Such as extra gameplay or chapters that are worth the price. Not too keen on the idea of paying for alternate costumes or weapons, I’m an old fogy who remembers when you had to complete certain goals to unlock those for free.

    But EA has games like The Sims that doesn’t contain loot boxes so it’s possible for them to do it. But the problem remains that they are jumping on the microtransaction/loot box bandwagon to siphon out as much money from people as they can. It’s as stupid as trying to faze out single player games.

  • Andrew Krasy

    Some people are so dumb they need to be defended from themselves.

    >As a market, we showed how bad these companies get it when they try to get away with shit practices.

    By rewarding every single one of them?

  • Jesse (RIP Iwata)

    The fact that EA got piled on for SW proves it, I think. Not wholly, of course, but it’s undeniable that we have influence.

    To your comment about rewarding them… well, as I alluded, it’s our choice whether or not to support them. Many people chose not to support and/protest EA’s practices. Did it work? I’d say, for the most part, yes.

    We always have the choice. If a bunch of people want to support these practices, then whatever; it’s their choice. They actively contribute to the thing they supposedly oppose. But I know that many others have a bit more self-control. I don’t buy EA, I don’t buy Activision, Ubisoft, etc. even if I want to.

    Point is, I don’t think we should be coddled by big brother because we want microtransactions out of our games. We have all the ability not to buy these games. There are hundreds of other games without microtransactions to play.

  • Pilebunker

    You know as well as I do that EA will still get good sales for their next game because gamers are so “forgetful” and will buy the next highly marketed AAA game. Because they are fueled by peer pressure and can’t miss out on their ignorant friends getting in on that action. People already decided to play BF2 again when EA temporarily removed the lootboxes. Too many people are apathetic about these anti consumer acts and just want to have fun at the end of the day.

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    I enjoy the casinos in RPGs and they were way better than what they got replaced by in Pokemon since if you didn’t care for the games, you could instead buy the coins to get the Pokemon/items.

  • Jesse (RIP Iwata)

    By no measure would I deny your statement. You’re 100% right. But that’s not a good reason to involve the government. At least I don’t think so. Consumers have some personal responsibilty to protect themselves. Whether or not most of them decide not to take that responsibility should not be an invitation for the government.

  • Nin

    It would be funny if consoles decided to let loot boxes be allowed and that paved the way to console H-games.

  • Ace

    I’m okay with future games not having loot boxes.

  • Himegami Aisa

    You do realise that not everybody is some pencil pusher who has 6 jobs to do in a day and 8 hours to do them, right? Or are doctors who are pushed into 60 hour weeks just slackers who don’t deserve being paid any more for working themselves to the bone?

  • Gamegodtre

    encil pusher, doctor???? i wish i work part time at a deli, i wish i was some pencil pusher or a doctor, itd be better pay and less stress, and alot less time working off the clock, i wor with someone putting in 60 hrs a week at least 20 being off the clock.