Missouri Senator Introduces Legislation to Ban Loot Boxes, Pay-to-Win

Yolanda Curtis
May 9, 2019

"Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids' attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits", Hawley said in a release. "And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions".

We won't know more about the bill until it hits the Senate floor and becomes part of public record, but it seems like Senator Hawley has a good grasp of the concerns that his constituents (and many others) have about loot boxes in games that children play.

They are frequently used as a way of monetising free games, with some having associated online marketplaces where players can trade or sell loot box items. Two of the bills would ban selling such games to people under the age of 21.

Despite Hawley's announcement, though, the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act still has a long way to go before becoming law. In a press release, the Senator's staff gave Activision game Candy Crush as an example, which features a $150 "Luscious Bundle" that gives players all kinds of in-game currency, boosts and more. Along with outlawing loot boxes, these video games also would be banned from offering "pay to win" schemes, where players must spend money to access additional content or gain digital advantages over rival players. Some countries, like Belgium and the Netherlands, have already taken legal action and forced publishers to modify or remove loot boxes from their games. Earlier in 2018, The Belgian Gaming Commission ruled that loot boxes constitute gambling, prompting companies such as Blizzard, Valve, and EA to either prevent the sale of loot boxes in the country or shut down entire games which heavily relied on microtransactions.

Hawley has only announced the bill and will introduce it to the Senate soon.

Nearly 90% said that they had opened a loot box in a video game, with more than half spending money on them and about a third reporting to have sold a loot box item. There are certain instances in which parents feel that children are being taken advantage of, due to the addictive nature of some of these games and their in-game purchase options.

They contain items of use for further game-play, such as weapons, although some are purely cosmetic. Stanley Piere-Louis, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, said in an interview with Variety that parents already have access to parental controls that can block children from making microtransactions in games.

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