A NEW law is under consideration in the United States that could see video game companies banned from letting kids spend money in video games.
The proposed bill takes aim at the “compulsive microtransactions” that have been filling video game companies’ coffers for years despite complaints from parents and fears the loot boxes they often pay for may fuel a rise in gambling problems.
The law would ban them totally from games designed for children, and ensure that they are “walled off” from children who happen to be playing games which are designed for adults but also played by kids.
Two popular games that could be hit very hard by this legislation are EA’s FIFA series and Epic Games’ Fortnite.
Ultimate team at risk?
In FIFA, the popular Ultimate Team mode sees players of the game collecting real-life football stars to slot into their online teams.
Players are obtained through buying individually inexpensive packs of randomly selected digital cards, similar to the way that you get player stickers for a World Cup album.
Packs are bought with an in-game currency that can be earned through playing or bought with cash, and there is no way to guarantee getting any specific player you may want.
This means players can rapidly rack up large bills as they buy huge numbers of packs to find specific cards.
Fortnite, meanwhile, doesn’t offer pay-to-win features, but many have argued that the way it lets players buy cosmetic items that distinguish their characters from other players is similarly exploitative.
Many parents have claimed children have spent hundreds of pounds in the game, with one parent slamming the firm after his 12-year-old son spent £700 in just three days.
The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act is being introduced by Republican Senator Josh Hawley.
“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 as the bill was introduced.
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetise addiction,” he continued.
Announcing the proposed bill, Hawley called out Activision game Candy Crush as one egregious example.
He cited the game’s $149.99 ‘Luscious Bundle’ which players can buy to get a whole host of in-game goodies.
These extras all help players get through the game’s levels, including tokens to extend level timers and bonuses that make levels easier to complete for up to four hours.
Belgium has already banned loot boxes, aiming at FIFA specifically.
Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts said in May when the Belgium’s ruling first came down that doesn’t “believe loot boxes are gambling.”
This is because “players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorise any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money.”
In the UK, the Gambling Commission is still looking at video game loot boxes.
MOST READ IN GAMING
A commission spokesperson told The Sun that “the playing of a game for the chance of a prize of money/money’s worth is gambling under UK law… so, where in-game items that are derived from loot boxes can be readily exchanged for cash, the loot boxes themselves are likely to fall within the definition of gambling.”
Parliament, meanwhile, is looking at the issue through its Immersive and addictive technologies inquiry.
One of the things that ongoing inquiry is investigating include “links between gaming and gambling”, with the inquiry looking at whether in-game spending needs more regulation, especially in games like Fortnite and FIFA that target children.
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