Hawaiian state bill would ban sale of loot box-enabled games to minors

Video game loot boxes — randomized item backs often obtainable through real cash or “premium currency” — soared in popularity in 2017, with everything from Star Wars Battlefront II to Forza Motorsport 7 using some version of the concept. It’s incredibly easy to purchase loot boxes on gaming consoles, but if a new bill out of Hawaii is passed, minors in our 50th state won’t be able to buy games that include them.

Senate Bill 3025, which has an identical companion bill in the Hawaiian house of representatives, comes a few months after state congressman Chris Lee openly condemned loot boxes in video games, calling the system Electronic Arts previously used in Star Wars Battlefront II a “Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into an addictive cycle of gambling money for a chance to win game upgrades.”

Should the bill pass, videos games “that contain a system of further purchasing a randomized reward or virtual idem that can be redeemed to directly or indirectly receive a randomized reward” — loot boxes — could not legally be sold to anyone under 21. This system doesn’t prohibit the sale of games that contain traditional microtransactions, however.

“Unlike at casinos, there is rarely disclosure of the odds of winning items of value in loot boxes or in-game gambling-like mechanics,” the bill said. “There are no gaming commissions to ensure players are being treated fairly and not exploited by gambling-like mechanics which do not pay out as advertised.”

A second set of bills in both the Hawaiian House and Senate applies to consumers regardless of age. They would require video game publishers to “prominently” disclose the probability rates of winning randomized items. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, which gives video games an age rating such as “Everyone,” “Teen,” and “Mature,” based on their content, doesn’t currently view the system as gambling. It’s a self-regulatory board established by the Entertainment Software Association, which has every major publisher among its members — it would be against the group’s interests to classify the systems as gambling, as it would hurt the individual publishers’ bottom lines.

Time will tell if similar bills are necessary elsewhere in the United States and around the world. Following disappointing financial results for Star Wars Battlefront II, Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen blamed the game’s performance on controversy surround its loot box system.

Product Review

'Black Ops 4' learns a few new tricks, but it's Call of Duty to the core

Despite nods to hero-based tactical gameplay, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s multiplayer feels as stable as ever -- even as the game trades in its story-driven campaign for the new Blackout mode.
Gaming

From Blackout to Zombies, here's everything we know about 'Black Ops 4'

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 arrives on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 12. Here's everything you need to know about the game, including info on multiplayer, Zombies, Blackout, and Signature Weapons.
Gaming

This week's PlayStation Plus deals have gems that would even make Link jealous

Free games, radically discounted hit titles, and exclusive DLC are all on the table with PlayStation Plus. We're here to make sure you don't miss out on any of the best PS4 game deals available this month.
Gaming

Get caught up on all things 'Fallout 76,' including when the beta starts

Bethesda's Fallout 76 takes the open world series in a new direction. With an emphasis on co-op, survival, and rebuilding a broken world, Fallout 76 will be the largest and most challenging game in the franchise yet.
Gaming

W. Virginia isn’t for mutants, but its tourism board doesn’t mind if you think so

Bethesda and the state of West Virginia are partnering on a new tourism program intended to bring Fallout 76 fans to the state. Vault Boy sightings have been recorded across West Virginia already.
Gaming

GameStop manager marks ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ launch by mimicking cover art

To celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, GameStop stores held midnight launch events across the United States. One manager even cosplayed as the cover star from the game, complete with an accurate haircut.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

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!
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Mobile

Here’s our guide on how to get ‘Fortnite’ on your Android device

'Fortnite: Battle Royale' is one of the biggest games in the world right now, and it's finally on Android, even if getting set up is a bit long-winded. Here's how to play 'Fortnite: Battle Royale' on an Android device.
Mobile

Put your iPad Pro to the test with these great games

Did you recently purchase a 10.5-inch iPad Pro, or are you enjoying the 12.9-inch version? If so, we've rounded up a few of the best iPad Pro games currently available on Apple's mobile platform.
Gaming

Open-world video games are getting too big for their own good

As technology has progressed, open-world video games have grown increasingly bigger. What seems like a universal positive has shown problems preventing the genre from truly moving forward, however.
Product Review

The Oculus Rift is cheaper, the Vive Pro is better. Is the original Vive still worth it?

The Oculus Rift may have brought virtual reality into the public eye, but HTC’s Vive, built in partnership with Valve, does it better. Does the Vive still represent the true future of virtual reality, or are there better competitors on…
Gaming

As deaf gamers speak up, game studios are finally listening to those who can’t

Using social media, personal blogs and Twitch, a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing players have been working to make their voices heard and improve accessibility in the gaming industry.
Computing

Nvidia is slowly rolling out its next generation of GPUs. Here's what you need to know about them

Nvidia's new RTX 2000 series graphics cards are impressive pieces of hardware, with some amazing advancements and some rather high price tags to match. Here's everything you need to know about Nvidia's new top-tier cards.