Senator Josh Hawley announced on Wednesday he plans to introduce legislation to ban loot-boxes and ‘practices that prey on the addictions of users’. He aims to ban the exploitation of children through ‘pay-to-win’ monetisation practices in the video games industry.
Belgium and The Netherlands have both introduced similar legislation here to ban loot-boxes in Europe, however, this is the first time such a proposal has been put forward in the United States.
Senator Hawley said “Social media and video games prey on user addiction, syphoning 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 excuse for exploiting children through such practices.”
“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.”
Hawley’s website cites two specific examples of abusive practices
- Pay to win: Pay-to-win games take two forms. In some cases, designers engineer games with artificial difficulty curves to induce players to spend money on upgrades simply to progress. These games are often offered for free, enticing players to download and even offering them a false sense of progression upon initial download before artificially increasing the difficulty to induce compulsive purchases. In other cases, designers create multiplayer games offering players who purchase paid upgrades competitive advantages over other players.
- Loot boxes: Loot boxes, incorporated both in free and paid games, offer players randomized rewards for spending money, combining the addictive properties of pay-to-win with the compulsive behaviour inherent in other forms of gambling.
Find out more about the plans on Senator Hawley’s website.