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U.S. Senator calls on ESRB and FTC to review loot box practices

U.S. Senator calls on ESRB and FTC to review loot box practices

February 15, 2018 | By Chris Kerr

February 15, 2018 | By Chris Kerr
More: Business/Marketing

U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan has called on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect consumers, and children in particular, by taking a more in-depth look at loot box practices in video games. 

Hassan outlined her concerns during a recent Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing, revealing she's already written to the ESRB asking the organization to do more to protect kids and inform parents about the potential dangers of loot boxes. 

During the hearing, Hassan also asked three FTC commissioner nominees whether they'd be willing to look at loot boxes as an independent issue if they are elected. 

All three answered with a resounding 'yes,' and agreed that loot boxes  -- which ask players to spend real-world or in-game currency on a randomized reward -- create problems that warrant genuine concern. 

"In the past, the FTC has looked at video games, issuing a report on the marketing of violent video games to children in 2009 and 2013. It also studied the ESRB, funding it one of the most effective voluntary enforcement boards," explained Hassan.

"That's why I'm confident the ESRB will take this issue seriously, so today I'm sending a letter to the ESRB outlining my concerns with microtransactions which make take the form of loot boxes - that's what they're called - and allow in-game purchases for surprise winnings. 

"In many cases these are being marketed to and used by children, who are obviously particularly susceptible to being addicted by them. Last month the World Health Organization recognized gaming disorder as a diagnosable disorder. We should be doing all we can to protect our children and inform parents about their options when it comes to these types of games."

Hassan is hardly the first politician, in the U.S. or otherwise, to take issue with the popular monetization model. 

Earlier this week Hawaiian Representative Chris Lee championed four bills that could prohibit the use of loot boxes in the state, including one that would halt the sale of games featuring loot crates that use real-world cash to anyone under the age of 21. 

Lee first spoke out against the "exploitative and predatory" technique in 2016, and took aim at EA for creating what he described as a "Star Wars-themed online casino" with Star Wars: Battlefront II

At around the same time that EA was grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons, experts and investigators from other countries, including the United Kingdom and Belgium, also voiced their concerns, with one official saying they'd like to ban loot boxes outright

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