US FTC plans to explore loot boxes in video games

The United States Federal Trade Commission has pledged to dive in and check out the “endemic” loot boxes in video games which have long been marked as a connection to a form of gambling.

In this case, child gambling.

The issue was brought to public attention when the Belgian Gaming commission (BGC) called for the removal of loot crates from games like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm last year. The decision was confirmed by FTC Chairman Joe Simons during an oversight committee hearing in Congress. Blizzard has followed suit and removed the crates from their games for that region, but that’s just one game in one country.

Call of Duty had a supply drop system that’s pretty much the same concept. You can dress it up how you like, but you pay to get virtual products for real cash. Hawaii State Senators also called out EA for what they referred to as a “Star Wars-themed online casino.” This is just the beginning of a long debate.

The Entertainment Software Association told Polygon in a recent post:

“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.”

Congress Senator Maggie Hassan states:

“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video games industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high budget releases.

And that these forms of “gambling” will only appeal to more and more gamers:

“Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022,” she continued. “It’s time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected.”

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