FTC promises to investigate loot boxes

midian182

Posts: 6,005   +50
Staff member

The move follows an official request by Senator Maggie Hassan during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing.

“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high budget releases,” said Hassan. She went on to say that they “represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022.”

Hassan noted recently published research by the UK’s Gambling Commission that claimed the number of children between the age of 11 and 16 who have problems with gambling has risen to more than 50,000 in two years. The commission places part of the blame on the rise of loot boxes found in video games and smartphone apps.

"Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games,” Hassan added. FTC chairman Joe Simons affirmed the request and agreed to launch an investigation.

Belgium and the Netherlands are two of the countries that now ban loot boxes, with the former having reportedly opened a criminal investigation into EA for failing to remove them from FIFA.

In a statement to Polygon, the Entertainment Software Association said: “Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.”

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Ravey

Posts: 227   +99
Ah ha, lets take Heroes of the storm as an example of loot boxes. Yes you get "something" out of every loot box. but the items you receive are tiered; Common, Rare, and Legendary. This tempts players to buy more boxes to gain Legendary items when they only receive Common or Rare items.

When you are awarded a duplicate item, you receive "shards". Shards can be used to buy cosmetics too, but you have to open a lot of loot boxes to obtain enough shards to "buy" cosmetics.

They say the items awarded have no "real-world" value in the article above. Well that's just word play. Of course they don't have Real-World value. They have Digital value. You pay money for digital content.

Even if loot boxes were a free system. it would still be gambling due to the randomness of obtaining the awarded loot.

But lootboxes is only part of the issue. in-game currency that you buy with real cash, also encourages players to spend more money than they really need to in order to buy cosmetics. In my opinion in-game currency should also be removed.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,392   +5,830
Frankly ANY form of collecting more money from the user after buying the game should be illegal, particularly since they can change the price, prize, or any number of features at their whim. Not so different from software makers claiming you don't "buy" their software, but only pay to use it. Pure non-sense and should be made illegal rather than allow them to continue to plunder the American public with their lies and deception ....... whewwwww, venting the old spleen is good!
 

Hexic

Posts: 743   +778
TechSpot Elite
So what I'm seeing, is that either individuals have little to no self-control when it comes to purchasing things online, particularly things that are solely aesthetic, and do not "push you ahead" of other players.

The other option being, parents don't want to pay attention to what their kids are doing online, not lock in game purchases down, and make excuses why they can't parent their own children.

This is the game industry's fault, how exactly? Quit making excuses for inherent laziness, and expect the government to fix your inability to adult.
 

kira setsu

Posts: 285   +219
So what I'm seeing, is that either individuals have little to no self-control when it comes to purchasing things online, particularly things that are solely aesthetic, and do not "push you ahead" of other players.

The other option being, parents don't want to pay attention to what their kids are doing online, not lock in game purchases down, and make excuses why they can't parent their own children.

This is the game industry's fault, how exactly? Quit making excuses for inherent laziness, and expect the government to fix your inability to adult.
seems every issue that harms the industry so far like lootboxes, dlc, microtransactions, preorder bonuses and etc can all be traced back to gamers terrible habits.

all of these things started small then got big money tossed onto them and exploded, no one forces someone to buy these lootboxes, ive dropped hrs into these games and never once thought of buying one, part of me feels bad but mostly its anger because gamers throw money at whatever is placed in front of them then cry foul while continuing to bankroll their own problem.
 
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ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,297   +1,081
Frankly ANY form of collecting more money from the user after buying the game should be illegal, particularly since they can change the price, prize, or any number of features at their whim. Not so different from software makers claiming you don't "buy" their software, but only pay to use it. Pure non-sense and should be made illegal rather than allow them to continue to plunder the American public with their lies and deception ....... whewwwww, venting the old spleen is good!
Not to mention adding this gambling after you already bought the game. It absolutely ruins the experience and is not why I bought the game. I wouldn't have ever bought it had I known.

Case in point? Overwatch. I haven't played it since they added the gambling, which wasn't very long. I don't care if boxes are bought with real money or not. I really believe I should get my money back for destroying the game I paid money for. I didn't get to play it very long nor I can enjoy it or play with friends. I am left out.

A bit further of a reach - games that have randomized loot such as treasure chests. Games like Diablo and nearly all MMO's have this, and the power players tend to play just to open the chests to be "more powerful". I am guilty as it cost me a lot. Not monetarily necessarily, but relationships with family and friends. My employment also suffered. I am glad I forced myself out of that. I'm not saying everyone, but it did me. I know others that played with me had this bad habit. They are the ones who race over as soon as the chest appeared. I started just hanging back until everyone looted and then get mine. Now I don't play at all and haven't for several years.

Coming from a gamer that played before they added all this gaming, the industry has become greedy. It's not about the experience any more but how much they can drain from customer's wallets. :(
 
S

senketsu

They may not have 'real world value', but they consume 'real world dollars' and when you read something like "published research by the UK’s Gambling Commission that claimed the number of children between the age of 11 and 16 who have problems with gambling has risen to more than 50,000 in two years." maybe it's time for a look
@Hexic I consider the game industry to be at least partially at fault when they do things like consult psychologists to make their games as addictive as possible. They want your money, bottom line, and will do all they practically can to get it. Should the games you buy really need a notice to tell you there are 'in game purchases'? IMHO you pay for the game, that should be it.
 
S

senketsu

It would be nice if we could fix all the adults out there who don't raise their kids properly, but right there is a sentence that would be argued about forever (about what's 'proper').
Since we can't and kids are being affected, something should be done because poorly raised kids become crappy adults (who then have more kids...but I digress).
I'm also surprised by the support for a laissez-faire type capitalism. History shows every time capitalism becomes free of regulation, they feel free to completely screw over anyone but themselves and would be happy to turn back to clock to have us all in indentured servitude and things like child labour like we saw before.
$50 billion industry by 2022. Companies will fight regulation to the end with this kind of money involved.
 

Burty117

Posts: 3,825   +1,690
This comment section is funny, trying to blame people who don't have self control. It's the exact reason Gambling is regulated. If you look up the definition of "gambling" you'll notice it describes loot boxes in games.

And I agree with a few other comments above as well about micro-transactions, When you purchased a game even just a few years back, you never needed to pay more to unlock cars, or weapons etc... You just needed to play the game and unlock them. It was the rewarding part of the game in many cases...
 

Hexic

Posts: 743   +778
TechSpot Elite
Overwatch isn't an example of a game destroyed by microtransactions at all.

There is no way me spending $4.99 for some loot boxes, so that I can wear a *green* shirt instead of a *blue* one is destroying anything but perhaps my fashion and color scheme combination choices.

Come on now... We're grasping at straws that don't even exist.
 

BSim500

Posts: 693   +1,447
The other option being, parents don't want to pay attention to what their kids are doing online, not lock in game purchases down, and make excuses why they can't parent their own children. This is the game industry's fault, how exactly? Quit making excuses for inherent laziness, and expect the government to fix your inability to adult.
Of course parents should pay attention, but there's a common sense limit as to how far you can stretch the "It's 0% of the gaming industry's fault, blame the parents for not hovering over their kids shoulders!" (then call them "helicopter parents" when they do), when the same industry commissions internal studies written by psychologists to openly go "full on" with making juvenile gambling as deliberately addictive as possible. "Parents should pay attention to what their kids are doing" is weak when loot-box saturated games are still given "Teen" ratings based solely on violence, sex, language, etc, and not gambling. Surprise, surprise, parents who do look at age ratings for guidelines will naturally think a Teen rated game is not going to be unsuitable for teenagers, whilst the gambling side of things alone would instantly make similar non-gaming entertainment illegal when aimed at same age group (eg, running casino ads on TV during kids hour during a programme with identical sex, violence, etc, ratings).

Personally, I think any game with any "designed to be addictive, post-purchase monetization" including many mobile games should be given an automatic "Adults Only" video game rating, which would both cause more parents to stop and research why it has that when buying (whereas a "Teen" rating bought for a teenager wouldn't) plus give the industry itself a serious wake-up call - they can either make games purchaseable by under 18's OR act like a cowboy gambling industry targeting adult "whales," just not both in the same game. That's what really scares the industry the most and why they've been lobbying their hearts out supporting outdated ratings that ignore gambling and opposing more accurate ratings that would factor it in.
 

m3tavision

Posts: 551   +319
Games should have a retail cost, and or be a service.

There should not have line-item-transaction, within them. And should be sold as a stand-alone product, or be part of a subscription. These "services" & "games" should be strictly divided into two categories…
1: Adult games, 18+
2: Children's games, 17 & under. (No subscriptions!)

Once established, these rules/laws/regulation should be strongly adhered to, with massive penalties for violating them, or allowing children within adult games.

Adult games that have any form of "loot boxes" can be categorized as gambling and would then have to follow local laws on such things, such as taxes, etc..! This would allow developers to make games however they wanted, without hitting the vulnerable, or prey on children using mommy & daddy's credit card, etc.
 

toooooot

Posts: 1,281   +605
Hopefully that doesn't mean they are announcing that they are ready for donations from companies like EA now.
 

ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,297   +1,081
Overwatch isn't an example of a game destroyed by microtransactions at all.

There is no way me spending $4.99 for some loot boxes, so that I can wear a *green* shirt instead of a *blue* one is destroying anything but perhaps my fashion and color scheme combination choices.

Come on now... We're grasping at straws that don't even exist.
The fact gambling is there that you pull the slot machine arm and hope to get something even if it's not a pay2lose system. You are more than welcome to dress up your "doll" if you so wish. How about a market to buy exactly what you want? How about earn it?

Microtransactions and DLC are at the root part of the downfall. How much money do they deserve to have an artist spend a few hours to make your shirt? How about make it possible for us to make our own or download from someone else... for free? What a novel idea! People used to be able to do this themselves... for free! The fact you are opening their wallet to them encourages them even more. I don't like to say it, but you are adding to the problem. Whether you are buying it or saying it's ok. I am just sharing my viewpoint.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,621   +2,245
So what I'm seeing, is that either individuals have little to no self-control when it comes to purchasing things online, particularly things that are solely aesthetic, and do not "push you ahead" of other players.

The other option being, parents don't want to pay attention to what their kids are doing online, not lock in game purchases down, and make excuses why they can't parent their own children.

This is the game industry's fault, how exactly? Quit making excuses for inherent laziness, and expect the government to fix your inability to adult.
Were you born yesterday? If people had self control there would be no addicts of any kind, drug addicts, alcholol, gambling...Saying "don't do drugs" to a drug addict won't fix ****. Brilliant.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,334   +5,793
Overwatch isn't an example of a game destroyed by microtransactions at all.

There is no way me spending $4.99 for some loot boxes, so that I can wear a *green* shirt instead of a *blue* one is destroying anything but perhaps my fashion and color scheme combination choices.

Come on now... We're grasping at straws that don't even exist.
Yeah, overwatch's lootboxs have zero impact on the Gameplay.

This is a touchy subject though. Targeting just lootboxes would honestly be dumb as there are thousands of mobile games with more predatory practices and over-regulation could hurt the industry. There is nothing inherently bad about lootboxes. They are only bad when games are made to encourage or nearly force their purchase like what EA did.
 

texasrattler

Posts: 969   +424
Frankly ANY form of collecting more money from the user after buying the game should be illegal, particularly since they can change the price, prize, or any number of features at their whim. Not so different from software makers claiming you don't "buy" their software, but only pay to use it. Pure non-sense and should be made illegal rather than allow them to continue to plunder the American public with their lies and deception ....... whewwwww, venting the old spleen is good!
Not to mention adding this gambling after you already bought the game. It absolutely ruins the experience and is not why I bought the game. I wouldn't have ever bought it had I known.

Case in point? Overwatch. I haven't played it since they added the gambling, which wasn't very long. I don't care if boxes are bought with real money or not. I really believe I should get my money back for destroying the game I paid money for. I didn't get to play it very long nor I can enjoy it or play with friends. I am left out.

A bit further of a reach - games that have randomized loot such as treasure chests. Games like Diablo and nearly all MMO's have this, and the power players tend to play just to open the chests to be "more powerful". I am guilty as it cost me a lot. Not monetarily necessarily, but relationships with family and friends. My employment also suffered. I am glad I forced myself out of that. I'm not saying everyone, but it did me. I know others that played with me had this bad habit. They are the ones who race over as soon as the chest appeared. I started just hanging back until everyone looted and then get mine. Now I don't play at all and haven't for several years.

Coming from a gamer that played before they added all this gaming, the industry has become greedy. It's not about the experience any more but how much they can drain from customer's wallets. :(
You quit cause you had a issue. To me it sounds like you had a game addiction nothing more. You had issues long before loot boxes. If you cant simply stop yourself, you have a problem.
You eventually got it figured out. You could have simply just eased off of playing imo. Guess that depends on how much you like playing. I game all the time but not to where my life is being affected. I stop when I need to even if I don't want to because I do have a life to deal with, we all do.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,621   +2,245
You quit cause you had a issue. To me it sounds like you had a game addiction nothing more. You had issues long before loot boxes. If you cant simply stop yourself, you have a problem.
You eventually got it figured out. You could have simply just eased off of playing imo. Guess that depends on how much you like playing. I game all the time but not to where my life is being affected. I stop when I need to even if I don't want to because I do have a life to deal with, we all do.
That's the thing. He can't just "ease off" cause he is an addict. As I already said in previous post, you're trying to fix his addiction by saying "stop doing that" or "ease off" which is honestly moronic. It's not gonna help, addiction is a ****ed up thing and is in many cases never solved.
 

Burty117

Posts: 3,825   +1,690
Overwatch isn't an example of a game destroyed by microtransactions at all.

There is no way me spending $4.99 for some loot boxes, so that I can wear a *green* shirt instead of a *blue* one is destroying anything but perhaps my fashion and color scheme combination choices.

Come on now... We're grasping at straws that don't even exist.
You really don't get it...

If you could buy the green t-shirt for £5.00, that's absolutely fine.

But you can't, you have to buy Loot boxes that give you randomly chosen items, just like in gambling, you have to spend more and more to get more Loot boxes and with a bit of luck (luck being a key word here) you might get your green t-shirt.

I'd also like to add, it's not hard to fix this issue either, just remove the loot box system and sell the items directly, done. Can you guess why they don't?
 

ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,297   +1,081
You quit cause you had a issue. To me it sounds like you had a game addiction nothing more. You had issues long before loot boxes. If you cant simply stop yourself, you have a problem.
You eventually got it figured out. You could have simply just eased off of playing imo. Guess that depends on how much you like playing. I game all the time but not to where my life is being affected. I stop when I need to even if I don't want to because I do have a life to deal with, we all do.
Yes I did, and thanks for pointing out I already admitted to my shortcoming. I do not have a problem with loot boxes even though others do. I do not chastise them nor do I blame it on others or their parents. I will say that enablers are what make it possible. It wasn't a problem before (loot boxes specifically), but now we do, and they are encouraging it. This I have a big problem with.

We all have a free will. It's not the parent's fault because look at even a pastor's kids (not to single out Christian families). We all try to point fingers. It's what started this whole mess we are in if you read scripture. :) I don't care what kind of family you were raised in. I do not point out other people's shortcomings when they openly admit it. I often try to help them unless they don't want to be helped.
 

Hexic

Posts: 743   +778
TechSpot Elite
Were you born yesterday? If people had self control there would be no addicts of any kind, drug addicts, alcholol, gambling...Saying "don't do drugs" to a drug addict won't fix ****. Brilliant.
Drug addicts and in-game items are two vastly different categories. I suppose these days that sounds a little crazy that individuals are expected to hold some form of self-control.

I have purchased loot boxes before, but that doesn't mean I'm an actual drug addict. I've been to Vegas before, that doesn't mean that I mortgaged my house and I'm living under a bridge.

There's a line of reason in this, and it appears that instead of taking responsibility for one's actions, it's simply easier to blame in the industry (who, shockingly, is out to make money) for their choice in life.

And @Burty117 - I do understand your point, it's a very simple one. That could be a viable option as well, however that is not what the industry is doing right now. They're selling aesthetically pleasing items, for the random chance of you getting something you like. You do earn loot boxes for free every event they hold, every level that you gain, and every time you're promoted (in OverWatch); so there are easy ways to obtain these for free, it simply takes longer.
 

Ravey

Posts: 227   +99
Well who doesn't love a good loot box right? I'll be honest and maybe a tiny bit hypocritical here. I do like open a lootbox that has a surprise hidden inside.

Lets not forget what this article is really about though. it's not about the lootbox itself. It's to investigate if a lootbox system can be deemed as gambling. If it is gambling, then any game with a lootbox system should be deemed as an adult only game 18+ to satisfy gambling laws.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,621   +2,245
Drug addicts and in-game items are two vastly different categories
They are addicted and can't stop, that is where they are similar. I would say gambling addicts are closer cause this is pretty much gambling.

I suppose these days that sounds a little crazy that individuals are expected to hold some form of self-control.
People without self-control have always existed, it's not a new thing.

I have purchased loot boxes before, but that doesn't mean I'm an actual drug addict. I've been to Vegas before, that doesn't mean that I mortgaged my house and I'm living under a bridge.
Not everyone who buys loot boxes is automatically an addict (maybe a bit stupid tho?), I think we all agree on that, but we are talking about different people. I can have a beer and not be an alhcoholic.
 

Burty117

Posts: 3,825   +1,690
@Burty117 - I do understand your point, it's a very simple one. That could be a viable option as well, however that is not what the industry is doing right now. They're selling aesthetically pleasing items, for the random chance of you getting something you like. You do earn loot boxes for free every event they hold, every level that you gain, and every time you're promoted (in OverWatch); so there are easy ways to obtain these for free, it simply takes longer.
You hit the nail on the head but you didn't understand you did. it's the random chance that is the problem. That is gambling, it is the text book definition. It's the randomization that should have been looked into the first time loot boxes ever appeared in video games and I am certain, all the video games publishers and developers completely understand it is gambling, but they hide behind "it's just a video game" or "It doesn't affect gameplay". That's not the point and the law is the law, it is gambling and needs to be regulated.

Again, extremely easy to fix, just sell items directly, The reason their is push back is because loot boxes make more money, they make more money because it is gambling. Why are slot machines addictive? Exactly the same situation here.

And the argument that you get given lots of free loot boxes in game (Overwatch you get them each time you level up for example) actually plays against loot boxes. Again, easy fix, when you level up, you get in-game currency that you can then spend or simply unlock stuff for the character you're playing etc... God their are so many ways developers can implement paid-for cosmetic items without using a gambling method it's insane it ever got to where it is today.
 
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