Xbox has a ‘responsibility’ to protect gamers, says Microsoft head

Xbox and Microsoft have a “huge responsibility” to protect gamers from overly predatory microtransactions and promote a “healthy gaming lifestyle,” head of operations Dave McCarthy has said in an interview. Discussing the impact of video games on both young and adult audiences, McCarthy addressed Xbox’s approach to encouraging a balance, spotlighting the company’s ambitions to enforce more robust parental control options and tackling divisive monetization options such as loot boxes.

This week, members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) will determine whether or not “gaming disorder” should be a recognized illness. WHO defines those affected by gaming disorder as having “impaired control” over their gaming habits, giving excessive priority to gaming over other interests and activities, and continuing to play games despite them bringing about negative consequences.

While Microsoft believes there isn’t enough evidence to support gaming disorder being acknowledged as a legitimate illness, McCarthy claimed the company is looking out for the best interests of gamers.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, McCarthy said that the company has an “ongoing commitment” to advance tools surrounding things such as spending control and screen time, “because some people need help.” McCarthy noted how it’s “not easy being a parent in the modern age,” and Xbox wants to ensure that parents feel comfortable with letting their children own Xbox hardware.

McCarthy also addressed microtransactions and loot boxes, calling for “more collaboration on an industry level” in order to tackle the issue. “It’s a shame that not every company is out there talking about [it], he said. “Not just the good things, but acknowledging that we do have a responsibility. We’re going to do it regardless, and if that pulls other along, then awesome.”

Countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have begun enforcing regulations against loot boxes, with comparisons being drawn to the randomized in-game item boxes and gambling. A US Senator also recently proposed an anti-loot box bill. While the jury’s still out on if loot boxes classify as gambling in the traditional sense of the word, the gaming industry at large is facing a significant pushback against these microtransactions.

Xbox and Microsoft are clearly aware of this, though McCarthy didn’t indicate how they would be tackling the issue of predatory microtransactions. Adding that if the industry wants the number of gamers to grow it has to “get this stuff right,” it seems that McCarthy believes the key lies in a frank discussion between game publishers.