The FTC just put gaming loot boxes in its sights

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In-game loot boxes to be the subject of an FTC investigation

The United States Federal Trade Commission committed to opening an investigation to analysis the loot boxes in video games and their effect on child gambling. While the Aussie report acknowledges, and even sympathizes with, the economic realities of the video game industry, it ultimately found loot boxes to be a legitimate risk. Referencing a Juniper Research report from earlier this year, Hassan says loot boxes will be a $50 billion industry by 2022. It's unclear what the timetable and scope of this investigation will be at this time, but this will be the biggest step towards potential U.S. government intervention in loot boxes that we've seen yet. It makes sense-the only difference between loot boxes and typical gambling is that the former's prizes are in-game items rather than real money.

Loot boxes form an integral piece of the progression mechanics in many of today's most popular games including Overwatch and Federation Internationale de Football Association. Now we may get some resolution to the question of "Are loot boxes a gateway to gambling?" here in the States. She then asked commissioners if they would be willing to look more closely at their usage in video games, and the commissioners said they would. PEGI and the ESRB have already added "in-game purchase" labels to any title offering the service, in an attempt to warn parents who aren't aware that such things exist - until they have a massive credit card bill, that is.

She also reinforced the Gambling Commission's previously mentioned study, through warning how children are most susceptible to loot boxes, a feature she claimed as a "close link" to gambling.

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"Just this month, Great Britain's gambling commission released a report finding that 30% of children have used loot boxes in video games".

Still, whatever these companies have done to ease the negative reaction to loot boxes doesn't appear to be enough. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. Other countries, such as Japan and Belgium, were choosing to bring in legislation when it came to keeping loot box content under control, so overspending wasn't possible.

For better or worse, loot boxes have become a popular way for gaming developers to pull in extra revenue from their players.

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