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!