Gaming News

U.S. Senate Will Consider New Bill Banning Loot Boxes and Pay-To-Win Microtransactions in Video Games

The bill sounds like it is worded to target games made for children, but many games with E or Everyone or T for Teen ratings include types of loot boxes and microtransations. Overwatch, FIFA, and Apex Legends are all examples of this.

The Entertainment Software Association (which is a fancy name for the lobbyist group representing the video game industry) has released an official statement in response to upcoming bill:

“Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling. We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands. Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls.” 

Some games have managed to introduce these elements in ways that don’t offend the gaming community. For example, Fortnite by Epic Games is free to play (well, the Battle Royale part of the game is free), and there is no competitive advantage in owning any of the thousands of cosmetic upgrades. Most are awarded through an optional seasonal Battle Pass that costs $10 as a one-time-per-season purchase. Additional items are for sale in the Item Shop, which can be purchased with V-bucks (which are earned at a low rate by playing the game, or bought with real money). There are no loot boxes in the game.

Rocket Leaguea game that is best described as “soccer, but with cars,” takes a similar approach. Any of the unlockable items are purely for cosmetic reasons. They recently also introduced an optional seasonal Rocket Pass, that mimics Fortnite’s battle pass almost exactly. However, this game does feature Loot Boxes (known as Crates) that contain a randomly selected exclusive item. Although they are not pay-to-win and can be turned off completely in the game’s settings, Rocket League has taken some heat for including a gambling-like mechanic, since Crates must be opened by Keys (that can be earned or bought with real money), and the chances of getting the rarest items are extremely low.

The recent release of Mortal Kombat 11 was met with major outcry from the gaming community, as they revolted against the extra tough grind required to actually unlock new items. One gamer calculated that it would take roughly $7,000 to buy everything in the game outright, and another posted to Reddit that some modes of the game were “literally impossible” to beat without shelling out more money for consumable upgrade items. In response, developers NetherRealm promised to tweak the difficulty a bit and offered early adopters a bounty of in-game currencies and items as an apology (although they clearly have no plans to remove Loot Boxes or microtransactions from the game).

Devon Taylor (@DevonTaylor113)

Devon has been writing about random things online since 2013. His favorite video game is Rocket League, his favorite TV show is The Sopranos, and he hated the last season of Game of Thrones. Follow him @DevonTaylor113.

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