Microtransactions in games are responsible for huge profits for the games' developers. However, one US senator has proposed legislation that may put an end to the .
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, said Wednesday that he'd introduce legislation banning "manipulative video game features aimed at children." Called the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, the bill would prohibit loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions.
"Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids' attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits," Hawley said in a release. "No matter this business model's advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: There is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences."
The new rules would focus on games aimed at minors as well as games "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions," according to the release.
Loot boxes are in-game caches that players typically purchase with in-game currency and that contain random in-game items. They became a prominent issue in 2017 with the release of Star Wars Battlefront II, in which players could purchase crates holding various power-ups that helped them progress in the game and be more competitive when playing against others online. There are other games that don't have a randomized box with in-game power-ups but still have in-game currency. The currency can be used to buy items or more playtime that'll give an advantage over people who choose not to spend additional money.
Games with microtransactions that don't have a randomized or pay-to-win aspect, such as Fortnite, appear to be safe from the effects of this legislation as it's currently written.
Stanley Pierre-Louis, acting president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying group for the video game industry, said on Wednesday that parents already have controls to limit or prohibit in-game purchases.
"Numerous countries, including Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling," Pierre-Louis said in an email. "We look forward to sharing with the senator the tools and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents' hands."
So far, Hawley has only outlined the legislation and hasn't introduced it to the Senate.