Democratic representative for Hawaii, Chris Lee, has proposed two bills, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, which aim to prohibit the sale of games with premium loot boxes to anyone under the age of 21, and the second bill is to force publishers to add a label to games containing premium loot boxes that warn the buyers about the gambling-like mechanisms in the game.
GamesIndustry.biz is reporting that the warning label would read…
“Warning: contains in-game purchases and gambling-like mechanisms which may be harmful or addictive”
The labels would be available for both physical and digitally sold games, so there would be no getting around the disclosures no matter what medium or service method was used to distribute the games.
The labels are actually a last resort, as politicians have been desperately trying to get the ESRB and ESA to make internal changes and self-regulate the industry without intervention. Previously the self-regulated Entertainment Software Ratings Board and Entertainment Software Association both claimed that loot boxes were not gambling, and that there was no need to rate games differently or separately for their inclusion.
Politicians continued to communicate with the ESRB and ESA, however, the politicians did not receive much help from either organization. The latest response from the ESA was to defend their own self-regulation and dismiss the issue of loot boxes, claiming that if people had an issue with loot boxes they are free to reach out and ask. In a prepared statement to GamesIndustry.biz, an ESA representative stated…
“We strongly believe that the industry’s robust, self-regulatory efforts remain the most effective way to address these important issues, and that system has a proven and long record of doing so.
“Some consumers and parents may have questions about how loot boxes work, and ESA has demonstrated a commitment to providing information to guide consumers, especially parents, in their purchase decisions.”
The dismissive tone that the ESA and ESRB have taken regarding making any sort of changes or adaptations to labels for games containing premium loot boxes have actually spurred some politicians into action who previously felt as if the video game industry should police its own industry through self-regulation.
Another Democratic state representative for Hawaii, Sean Quinlan, actually reluctantly backed the bills following the ESA and ESRB’s lack of action. Previously, back in December, he did not want any sort of government intervention, citing bad experiences as a youth while growing up gaming…
“When I was a teenager, a senator by the name of Joseph Lieberman tried to regulate the content of violent video games,”
“I want to make it clear that we are only regulating a mechanism, not the content of the game itself. I would hope that any further legislation dealing with video games would similarly only look at particular mechanisms and not content itself.”
Democratic Senator Maggie Hanson from New Hampshire also managed to gain support from the Federal Trade Commission in investigating the effects of the loot box model on the industry, and also beckoned for the ESRB to consider changing or adding labels to warn parents about games that contain premium loot boxes, but the ESRB also dismissed that attempt to make any alterations to how they rate games.
Essentially some of the politicians seem to realize that gamers don’t want them meddling with content or implementing censorship, but at the same time plenty of gamers also contacted their state representatives after Electronic Arts failed to do anything about the pay-to-win microtransactions in Star Wars: Battlefront II. It took a campaign from parents contacting state legislators and later putting together a campaign to contact Disney directly, criticizing them for supporting gambling in kids games. Shortly thereafter, Disney’s Bob Iger contacted Electronic Arts and had them to temporarily disable the microtransactions in Star Wars: Battlefront II.
Representative Chris Lee has basically stated that the bills are to…
[…] “curb the proliferation of gambling mechanics in games that are marketed to children [in] absence of strong signals from the industry that they will deal with the issue internally”
Since the original fallout in November of 2017, neither publishers nor software ratings organizations have made any attempts to address or change the current loot box model.