US FTC to hold workshop on videogame loot boxes in August


  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 09 Apr 2019

An upcoming video game that lets players simulate a school shooting is coming in for criticism from parents of shooting victims and from politicians. — AFP Relaxnews

LOS ANGELES: The US Federal Trade Commission is holding a public workshop on Aug 7 to examine the consumer protection issues surrounding videogame loot boxes, it announced on April 5. 

The workshop is called “Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes”, and it will feature industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, academics, and government officials. They will discuss a variety of topics, including the origins and evolution of loot boxes, how they’re being marketed to consumers, and the potential behavioural impact they could have on children. 

Loot boxes are in-game treasure chests containing a random assortment of virtual items. Players buy them using virtual currency they earn within the game or by spending real-world money. Some fear they’re too akin to gambling, and countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have already taken legal action against videogame publishers who use them, forcing companies like Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard to modify or remove them from their games entirely. 

Meanwhile, in the US, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked the FTC to investigate videogame look boxes last year, calling it a necessary step to “adequately protect children and other vulnerable people who play videogames, as well as to better educate parents and players about the possibility of addiction and other negative behaviours resulting from loot box exposure”. She added that they are now “endemic in the videogame industry, and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget ‘blockbuster’ videogame releases”. 

FTC chairman Joseph Simons agreed to look into the issue and said in February his agency would hold a public workshop at a later date. 

The FTC is now seeking public input ahead of the workshop on things like possible discussion topics and participants. People can submit suggestions through June 7 via email at lootboxworkshop@ftc.gov. The workshop will be streamed on the FTC’s website for anyone interested in viewing it. – Variety/Reuters

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