Hawaii Looking to End Loot Boxes

State lawmakers are looking to put an end to manipulative and predatory loot box practices in some games according to the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

Four bills have been introduced within the last month, each targeting the monetization technique as exploitative and potentially able to turn players into gambling addicts.

House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024 both aim to entirely prohibit the sale of games with loot box mechanisms to anyone under the age of 21. House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025 are less restrictive but require that publishers be more transparent with their loot box odds, requiring prominent labels on games with these systems and disclosure of the probability rates.

Rep. Chris Lee of Oahu said he had witnessed the industry evolve to exploit children to drive profits. Although some loot box systems, like Blizzard’s popular shooter Overwatch, offer players the chance to earn loot boxes through gameplay or only offer cosmetic rewards, some have begun to offer rewards with competitive advantages. Star Wars: Battlefront II caused controversy in 2017 for its system, which not only included gameplay advantages but also locked fan-favorite characters behind a paywall.

Lee said that many of these publishers have often employed psychologists to create these mechanisms and not game designers. This gives the impression that publishers are more interested in exploiting children to gamble. After working with other states and countries, Lee said more than half of U.S. states are now working to legislate loot box oversight.

Pushback from the industry is expected, as Lee noted that games are currently a $30 billion industry, larger than Hollywood, with nothing forcing them to disclose their practices. Activision Blizzard, the publisher of Overwatch, announced this month that the company made $4 billion from in-game transactions in 2017 alone.

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