FTC looking into video game loot boxes

A number of countries around the world have already decided that loot boxes are a form of gambling.  On the other hand, there are also a number of countries that have swung the other way, saying that loot boxes are harmless and don't need to be classified as gambling.  On the fence is the U.S., but this could soon change.  Legislators are considering the issue and have been reassured by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that loot boxes are being investigated in order for the commission to offer its recommendation. 

Speaking in front of a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee last week, the FTC asserted that it is looking into loot boxes, the in-game purchases in video games that allow players to take a chance at receiving valuable components or upgrades by purchasing a mystery box. 

According to Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, “Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget video game releases.  Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022, according to the latest research estimates. Children may be particularly susceptible to engaging with these in-game purchases, which are often considered integral components of video games.”

Loot box opponents like to believe that the purchases are similar to slot machines - a purchase is made to receive an unknown item.  However, what many fail to realize is that a loot box purchase ALWAYS results in something being rewarded.  With slot machines, many times the player walks away empty-handed. 

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has already said that loot boxes aren't gambling.  However, feeling the heat from politicians such as Hassan could force the board to reevaluate its position and force significant changes to how loot boxes are offered.

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