US Federal Trade Commission to investigate Loot boxes & child gambling

General Matthew Whitaker speaks at the Joint Terrorism Task Force office in New York New York U.S

General Matthew Whitaker speaks at the Joint Terrorism Task Force office in New York New York U.S

Following an inquiry from US Congress Senators Ed Markey, and Maggie Hassan, FTC chairman Joseph Simons pledged to investigate loot boxes and their possible links to gambling in games. Hassan points out that loot boxes are present in games of all types, from the lowliest casual mobile games up to expensive AAA titles. "Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games", she continues. Combine that with the fact that many games make opening loot boxes a spectacle filled with neat sound effects, cute animations, and the like, and it's no wonder so many gamers find themselves spending money on these digital slot machines.

It's not just the United States that has revealed it'll be investigating loot boxes as the Federal Government in Australia has also revealed that it will be moving forward with its Senate inquiry into the matter too. Or would you rather see the subject of loot boxes left up to the market and consumers?

Up to now, loot boxes were a reliable, if not a little shady, form of income for game developers. One problem with her assertions: the UK Commission report she cited actually doesn't draw a connection between loot boxes and the rise of youthful gambling.

Even though they aren't quite as notorious as they were a while back with games like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II, loot boxes are still of great concern to many players, particularly in sports games like National Basketball Association 2K19.

EA's response to the Redditor - that the decision was aimed at providing players "with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes" - quickly became the most down-voted comment in Reddit history. The loot boxes "have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase".

Gaming firms have also been accused by the Church of England for targeting children by introducing gambling by stealth through loot boxes.

Of course, Sen. Hassan's concerns might not necessarily translate into action against either loot boxes or game developers. "That's why I'm confident that the ESRB will take this issue seriously", she said, indicating that involvement from the Trade Commission would only be necessary if the ratings board fails to adequately address the issue.

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