The FTC to investigate loot boxes in games

By Sherif Saed, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 11:55 GMT

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has vowed to look into the matter of loot boxes in video games.

Following an inquiry from US Congress Senators Ed Markey, and Maggie Hassan, FTC chairman Joseph Simons pledged to investigate loot boxes and their possible links to gambling in games.

Simons promised that his commission would “undertake this project and keep the committee informed about it.”

As reported by Broadcasting Cable, Senator Hassan said that loot boxes are “endemic” to the industry, and noted their increased availability in games regardless of platform or budget.

In particular, the Senator was concerned about how accessible loot boxes are to children in mobile games. She referenced a recent UK study that found 30% of children have engaged with loot boxes in games, and how that could later lead to problem gambling for some.

The inquiry is mostly focused on the dangers facing children, rather than the ethical side of the argument. It’s also interested in finding ways for parents to be made aware of which of their children’s games include loot boxes.

The Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing, where the conversation took place, can be watched below in full.

More and more governments around the world are looking into regulating loot boxes in games, and whether they constitute a form of gambling. European countries such as Belgium, and the Netherlands have both banned loot boxes, leading Activision, and EA to remove the option to buy them using real money from FIFA, and Overwatch.

The US has been slower to react, however, despite early signals that the matter will be looked into.

For its part, video game self-regulating body the ESA is holding firm on its assertion that loot boxes are not gambling, telling Polygon as much in a statement.

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