United States Senator pens letter to ESRB calling for loot box regulations

United States Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)  has called on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to review the process for rating games that contain loot boxes, Glixel reports.

In a letter addressed to ESRB President Patricia Vance, Hassan urged the ESRB to collect data on loot box practices so that parents can be better informed about what their children are playing.

“The prevalence of in-game micro-transactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance. The potential for harm is real. Recently the World Health Organization classified ‘gaming disorder’ as a unique condition in its recent draft revision of the 11th International Classification of Diseases. While there is robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact that they are both expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny. At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games,” Hassan wrote.

Hassan took a measured approach in her call for action on the growing controversy surrounding loot boxes. She didn’t go as far as to definitively label loot boxes as gambling, but she did outline why their presence in video games could be a concern, particularly for youth.

Last year, the ESRB claimed that it currently doesn’t view loot boxes as gambling because, like trading cards, users are guaranteed to get something in return — even if it’s not what they hoped for.

Additionally, in a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing, the senator asked four Federal Trade Commission nominees if they thought loot box practices should be looked at more closely by the FTC. All four nominees agreed.

This comes on the heels of two sets of state bills introduced in Hawaii that seek to put strict regulations on games that include loot boxes. Senate Bill 3025 and House Bill 2686 would prohibit the sale of games with loot boxes to anyone under the age of 21 in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 3024 and House Bill 2727 would require publishers to openly display the probability rates for winning items from a loot box.