Apex Legends and Overwatch could suffer from new bill on loot boxes

Apex Legends and Overwatch could suffer from new bill on loot boxes

Hot news out of Washington this morning, as US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has introduced a bill (dubbed "The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act") meant to ban loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions in "games played by minors", a label that apparently includes both games marketed at children and games for adults "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions". The bill he is proposes specifically targets "games played by minors... whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions", or games playable by children under the age of 18 - a rather broad label that basically encompasses all games. "Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences".

According to a Kotaku report, the ban would be across "games played by minors", which raises some questions.

The FTC would be in charge of decided whether microtransactions and loot boxes are "unfair trade practice", and states would be able to sue publishers if found in violation of rules set forth.

In a press release, Senator Hawley gave an example of Candy Crush's microtransactions, a game owned by Activision Blizzard. The introduction to the bill says the distinction would be based on "subject matter, visual content, and other indicators similar to those used to determine applicability of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act".

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Call of Duty is rated Mature game meant for players 17 years or older in United States, but this bill is broad to target against games that have "pay to win" style microtransactions.

Loot boxes, which can be bought or offered as rewards for achieving certain goals within a game, also have come under fire over concerns that they encourage addictive behavior, especially by children.

The Entertainment Software Association has said that it is looking "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". The legislation he proposed would also prohibit children from gaining access to loot boxes in games marketed to adults.

As other governments and elected officials have stated in the past, Hawley believes loot boxes promise a competitive advantage and "prey on user addiction".

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