A few weeks ago, US Senator Josh Hawley released an outline of a bill that would ban loot boxes and other play-to-win mechanics. Yesterday, Hawley was joined by senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey in formally introducing the official bill, titled the “Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act.”
The bill notes that “pay-to-win” transactions which give users an advantage at a price is akin to a user–especially minors–playing a slot machine, gambling for special rewards. Because of the perceived negative effect on minors, these senators are pushing for a ban of such games. On top of this, offending game studios could be fined for their games which use these mechanics.
This bill’s success–or even a compromised bill that is successful–could impact the gaming industry in a huge way. Free-to-play games and games that rely heavily on micro-transactions in general make tons of money for game companies. There’s no doubt they’ll feel the hit, or at least shake in their boots a little bit at the thought of this bill’s passing.
Certainly, it is possible that the bill could pass. We have already heard that Animal Crossing Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes are getting the ax in Belgium due to their micro-transactions, which sets a positive precedent for the senators’ cause.
Gambling in the US is heavily restricted as well, banning anyone under 18 from doing so. Even the in-game gambling aspect in older Pokémon games (the Game Corners) was axed due to concerns about minors.
At this time, the Entertainment Software Association has criticized the bill for being “riddled with inaccuracies,” and misrepresenting the gaming industry, potentially harming both those employed by the industry and gamers alike.