Let’s get together —
Move represents the first federal government action on an increasingly political issue.
In response to
(D-N.H.), the Federal Trade Commission now says it will be convening a “public workshop on loot boxes” later this year.
The FTC said it hopes to attract “consumer advocacy organizations, parent groups, and industry members” to take part in the workshop, according to a letter from FTC Chairman Joseph Simons provided to Hassan. The short note suggests such a gathering could “help elicit information to guide subsequent consumer outreach, which could include a consumer alert.”
Elsewhere in the letter, Simons notes the FTC’s
to gauge the marketing and accessibility of violent video games (and other media) to children. And though the FTC in November
that it is investigating the loot box issue, Simons also notes that he can’t publicly comment on any potential law enforcement efforts in the space that might be ongoing.
“I appreciate the FTC’s continued engagement on the issue of loot boxes, particularly in regards to the well-being of young gamers,” Hassan said in a statement. “A public workshop on loot boxes is a step in the right direction, and I encourage the FTC to continue working with consumer advocates, parents, gamers, and industry members to ensure that meaningful improvements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections around loot boxes.”
The workshop is the first public sign of any concrete US government action on the issue of video game loot boxes since the FTC investigation was launched. Some observers and politicians liken the purchase of randomized loot boxes full of in-game items to a form of gambling, saying the loot boxes therefore shouldn’t be accessible by children.
State-based legislative efforts to rein in loot boxes in
have yet to lead to any actual laws on the books. Gaming commissions abroad in
have already ruled that loot boxes constitute illegal games of chance, though similar groups in other countries have ruled the opposite.
In September, Washington state joined with 15 foreign countries in a declaration expressing concern “with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming.”
The industry-aligned Entertainment Software Rating Board started labeling titles with “in-game purchases” last year. When that program was announced, the group said it considers loot boxes to be “a fun way to acquire virtual items for use within the game, to personalize your experience” and that it was “unable to find any evidence that children specifically have been impacted by loot boxes or leading them to some sort of tendency towards gambling.”
In November, the Entertainment Software Association lobbying group said in a statement that “contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase.”