Loot box: USA ask companies to review the system for minors

Loot box: USA ask companies to review the system for minors

Loot box

The loot box issue has always been very delicate, and each country has decided to adopt different solutions to try to stem some problems that have been caused by this system of rewards included in some of the most successful video games. Now, the United States of America has decided to take an important step forward by sending a letter to all the major gaming companies to protect underage players.

These letters have been sent to a dozen of major video game companies including giants such as: Blizzard, Epic Games, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and Riot Games. Senator Ed Markey, Representative Kathy Castor and Representative Lori Trahan urged executives to extend the new loot box regulations being implemented in the United Kingdom to the United States of America as well.

The new UK regulations, called the Age Appropriate Design Code, will be rolled out next month, applying to social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as well as video games like Roblox and Minecraft. In particular, the new rules oblige companies to develop their products in a way that allows minors to play without the risk of spending real money, offering stricter privacy settings and policies for different age groups.

The loot box issue is still very hot and is never an easy topic to deal with. In many countries, for example, this kind of systems applied to video games are considered as a real game of chance.

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US Congress Members Want Loot Boxes Kept Away From Children

Democrats are calling for new laws which will keep loot boxes away from children, citing new rules being placed in the United Kingdom this September.

The Verge reports that Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA) wrote a letter to bring the UK's Age Appropriate Design Code to the United States. The letter addressed 12 mainstream game companies such as Activision Blizzard, Disney, Sony, Microsoft, and Epic Games.

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Now Playing: New Loot Box Report Confuses Gambling Discussion - GameSpot Daily

The US Congress claims in the letter that loot boxes are 'encouraging purchase before a child knows what the “bundle” contains--akin to gambling.' Unlike micro-transactions, players are unaware of the contents inside the loot box until they purchase it. It usually takes at least a couple of purchases to get what you want. Some games let players preview possible rewards inside the loot boxes. The Congress members believe that games need stricter rules beyond the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) regulations.

Although the UK looked into the addictive aspect of loot boxes in 2019 and 2020 and has since enacted changes in the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) guidelines, it's not part of the AADC. It resulted in ESRB changing its guidelines as well, but some members of Congress feel like it was not enough.

Democrats are citing the AADC for something it never refers to. The AADC 'is a set of 15 flexible standards--they do not ban or specifically prescribe--that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn, and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child,' according to the AADC page. It doesn't target loot boxes or microtransactions.

The AADC pushes for social media sites and popular games such as Roblox and Minecraft to prevent questionable practices for children until the age of 18. It would provide increased privacy settings and prevent unhealthy usage of a service.

However, the US already has the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to protect the privacy of young children, so citing the AADC could be seen as another excuse to attempt a loot box ban. It's a conversation in Congress that occurs seemingly every year, and earlier in 2021, lawmakers in Chicago wanted to ban games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 due to an increase in carjackings. This new letter also states 'exposure to violent content' as another concern for young gamers.