United States Senator, Maggie Hassan, has demanded that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) examine its rating system in matters related to the regulation of loot boxes. The Senator has also called for a study to be conducted on the reach and impact of loot boxes in games.
Senator Hassan asked four Federal Trade Commission (FTC) nominees on whether they believe that gaming addiction in children, and features like loot boxes which makes them more susceptible to gaming, are problems that merit attention. She was specifically referring to in-game microtransactions which grant random rewards to players. She also pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized gaming addiction as a diagnosable disorder.
Writing to Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB, Senator Hassan commended the ESRB rating system as being “of great value to parents across the country, empowering parents to make informed decisions on behalf of their children.” She advised the ESRB “to keep pace with new gaming trends, including the in-game micro-transactions and predatory gaming tactics, particularly as they are deployed on minors.”
The Senator continued that the ESRB should label physical games containing loot boxes. She requested the ESRB review its “design and marketing approach to loot boxes in games geared toward children,” so that they are “being conducted in an ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.”
Additionally, Senator Hassan urged the ESRB to work with “relevant stakeholders” and parents to collect and publish data on how developers utilize loot boxes, as well as how widespread they are and how much money players are spending on them. She also asked developers for the implementation of tools which allows parents to disable loot boxes, or at least make them less essential to gameplay.
Earlier this week, we reported that Hawaiian State Representative Chris Lee proposed several bills to further regulate loot boxes in games. In other related news, Germany could also be moving to ban loot boxes.