Washington State Senator’s Bill Questions Gambling, Transparency In Loot Boxes
The loot box controversy train keeps rolling, and now a Washington state senator has presented a bill to investigate whether or not randomized in-game items qualify as gambling for children among other things.
In an interview with News Tribune, Senator Kevin Ranker says the bill enlists Washington state and the video game industry to figure out how to regulate loot boxes. “It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something,” Ranker says.
The bill, which can be read here, questions if the “mechanisms are considered gambling under Washington law”; if loot boxes belong in games; if minors should have access to such features; and “the lack of disclosure and transparency with respect to the odds of receiving” items. The Washington State Gambling Commission is conducting a study to investigate these topics. The commission will then present its findings and provide “recommendations regarding how to best regulate the practice of including loot boxes and similar types of mechanisms in online games and apps,” as well as possible “restrictions on the sale of games containing these mechanisms.”
For clarity, the proposed does not directly say legislation should be passed on loot boxes but instead proposes an investigation into the topic.
This isn’t the first time loot boxes have fallen under governmental investigations and regulations. Overwatch must display the odds of getting cosmetics in China. Belgium’s Gaming Commission in November declared loot boxes as a form of gambling. Also in November, a state representative for Hawaii said he wants to combat the “predatory practices” of loot boxes. Even Apple now requires apps with loot boxes to disclose the chances of getting specific items. This all comes hot off the heels of Star Wars: Battlefront II’s controversial loot boxes, which temporarily removed microtransactions from the game.
Sorry guys. Looks like we’ll be talking about loot boxes in 2018 as well, but we hope it’s all for the better. Such a system can be an exciting part of a game if it’s done correctly, but it should never be at the expense of consumers, gameplay mechanics, and central to a game's overall experience. Consumers voiced themselves loud enough against such practices, and you can keep projecting that voice by voting with the most powerful weapon you have in this instance: your wallet. These investigations could be a win both for those that publish our favorite games and consumers by striking a fair, non-invasive balance.