Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has today announced his plans to introduce a bill seeking to prohibit game studios from selling loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions to minor players. The proposed bill, dubbed “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act,” will apply to both games designed specifically for children and games made for a wider audience if passed.
“Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no reason for exploiting children through such practices,” Sen. Hawley said.
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”
The bill, if it becomes law, would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) requested in a letter last fall to investigate loot boxes following the infamous loot box controversy involving Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2017.
The FTC will host a workshop with the game industry and consumer advocates to address the issue on August 7.
Loot boxes are the bread and butter of games like Overwatch, PUBG, Apex Legends and Candy Crush Saga, but they have drawn comparisons to gambling recently.
So much so that countries like Belgium declared loot boxes as such, stipulating a five-year prison sentence and hefty fines to game developers who don’t remove loot boxes, doubling the penalties if minors are involved.
Hawley’s press release highlighted Candy Crushes’ “Luscious Bundle” as a “notorious example” of loot box abuse. The $150 bundle, tagged as a “Best Value” package in-game lowers the difficulty level for 24-hours.
Hawley is known for his criticism of large tech companies, such as Facebook, over their flawed privacy policies.