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New legislation could ban loot boxes from video games like 'Fortnite'

Loot boxes in “Fortnite” allow players to obtain small bundles of in-game items.
Loot boxes in "Fortnite" allow players to obtain small bundles of in-game items.
Screenshot, Epic Games

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, introduced legislation seeking to ban video game purchases like loot boxes and pay-to-win enhancements, according to Variety.

Hawley said the goal of the Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act is to help prevent predatory practices in video games aimed at children.

According to Variety, loot boxes are in-game packages containing random items. Games like “Overwatch” and “Fortnite” offer these boxes for real-world money, drawing some comparisons to gambling, since purchasers don’t know exactly what they will receive.

Loot boxes and skin purchases in games are predicted to generate $50 billion for the video game industry by 2022, according to Juniper Research.

“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,” he said.

The Hill reports that the Federal Trade Commission would be given stewardship over the ban. Video game companies who violate the rules could face lawsuits from the state. Games targeted by the legislation would be selected based on their appeal to children.

According to Kotaku, a study published last year in nature argued 10 out of 22 games analyzed (including entries in the “Call of Duty,” “FIFA” and “Madden” series) fell under the definition of gambling, based on these five criteria:

  • The exchange of money or valuable goods.
  • An unknown future event determines the exchange.
  • Chance at least partly determines the outcome.
  • Nonparticipation can avoid incurring losses.
  • Winners gain at the sole expense of losers.

Others have spoken in opposition of Hawley’s legislation. Stanley Piere-Louis, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, said in an interview with Variety that parents already have access to parental controls that can block children from making microtransactions in games.