The United States Federal Trade Commission has pledged to explore apparent “endemic” loot boxes in the video games industry, following a potential connection to child gambling.
This issue was highlighted by the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) in 2017 as they called for the removal of loot boxes in titles such as Blizzard’s Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.
The decision to investigate the issue was confirmed by FTC Chairman Joe Simons, during an oversight committee hearing in Congress.
Senator Maggie Hassan, who put the question to Congress, said: “Loot boxes are now endemic in the video games industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high budget releases.
“Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022,” she continued. “It’s time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected.”
Senator Hassan also pointed out that there is more to be done to educate parents about addiction and other issues that video games can present for their children.
It’s not just Overwatch which has been at the forefront of the debate, though, as Call of Duty had a supply drop system - very similar to loot boxes - until last year. Plus, following an investigation from the U.S state of Hawaii, State Senators called out Electronic Arts for what they referred to as the creation of a ‘Star Wars-themed online casino’.
In response to these concerns, the Entertainment Software Association told Polygon: “Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. 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. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.”