U.S. Senate presses FTC to investigate video game loot boxes


Loot boxes have been the subject of controversy over the last few years, with games like Star Wars: Battlefront II coming under particularly heavy scrutiny for including gambling-like mechanics in competitive multiplayer. Countries in Europe, including Belgium, have already taken steps to combat loot boxes, and it appears the United States Federal Trade Commission will now follow suit.

During a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire asked FTC commissioners about “additional oversight” regarding loot boxes and how they can appeal to children.

“Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget video game releases,” Hassan said. “Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022, according to the latest research estimates.

Hassan asked the commissioners if this issue was something they were willing to look into, and they quickly agreed that it was. However, it remains to be seen what action — if any — will be taken as a result of an FTC investigation.

Following the hearing, the Entertainment Software Association sent a statement to Polygon, reaffirming that loot boxes are not gambling, because they hold no “real world” value and players always receive something, but some governments disagree.

Just last week, Square Enix was forced to pull three of its mobile games from digital storefronts in Belgium, later confirming that the reason for this was the country’s laws surrounding loot boxes.

Other companies have taken slightly less drastic steps to comply with the law. Blizzard disabled paid loot boxes in Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, but players can still purchase the boxes through currency earned in the game itself.

But legal changes haven’t always prompted companies to make adjustments to their games, as players’ feedback has also done so, and it’s often quicker.

The aforementioned Star Wars: Battlefront II completely changed its progression system in response to feedback, moving away from offering “pay to win” loot boxes and only offering cosmetic items for direct purchase. The following year, Electronic Arts didn’t include any loot boxes in its shooter Battlefield V, though you can still purchase weapon skins and other cosmetic gear with real money.


Blizzard suffers another blow with exit of global esports director Kim Phan

Blizzard suffered another blow with the departure of global esports director Kim Phan. Her exit comes after Overwatch League's founding commissioner Nate Nanzer left last month to join Epic Games.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (June 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Loot boxes? EA vice president prefers you call them surprise mechanics

An Electronic Arts executive said that loot boxes are “surprise mechanics” like Kinder Eggs and that they are “quite ethical and quite fun.” Speaking before a U.K. parliament committee, the executive wouldn't even use the term "loot…

The best Nintendo Switch games, from Breath of the Wild to Rocket League

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.

343 Industries says first beta for Halo: Reach on PC will be next week

After a delay, 343 Industries is following through on its promise to send out beta invites for Halo: Reach on PC. Some PC gamers will be getting a first taste of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC next week.

Get Nindie with it and check out these awesome indie games for the Switch

The Nintendo Switch's portability makes indies feel at home on the platform. Luckily, there are plenty of great titles to choose from. Here are our picks for the best Nintendo Switch indie games.

Sony patent for PS5 could eliminate loading screens altogether

Game developers have found ways to mask loading screens, and a new Sony patent for the PS5 could take things another step. This patent shares a method that change how we experience the moment-to-moment traversal in video games.

Hey! Listen! Here's the entire Legend of Zelda series ranked from best to worst

The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most iconic video game franchises of all time, featuring more than a handful of the very best games ever made. We ranked all of the games in the series timeline from best to worst.

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to the most powerful notebooks in the world.

HDR monitors are better and more affordable than ever. These are the best ones.

HDR monitors might come at a premium, but if you get the right one for the job it can make movies, games, and even your workday, that little bit prettier. These are our favorite HDR monitors, with something for everyone.

Tips and tricks to mastering the hunt in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

If you're planning on playing the Monster Hunter World: Iceborne beta on PS4, check out our beginner's guide for a handful of tips and tricks covering mechanics both old and new. Hoarfrost Reach is dangerous, but you got this.

Our favorite gaming desktops make the latest consoles look pathetic

PC gaming doesn't always come cheap, but it doesn't have to be extortionate either. In this guide we've put together a list of the best gaming PCs you can buy, with everything from the big and flashy, to the super compact.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Illuminated keyboards and a retro gaming console

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!