America's Federal Trading Commission is going to be investigating loot boxes

America's Federal Trading Commission is going to be investigating loot boxes

A United States senator has asked the country's Federal Trading Commission to look into loot boxes in video games.

Live on C-SPAN, the Democrat senator for New Hampshire Maggie Hassan said that loot boxes were endemic in the industry - itself an undeniable fact - and that the time is now to investigate this business model and to make sure minors are being protected.

“Given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games," she said.

This was part of hearing on the subject of tech giants such as Facebook and Google and the use of manipulative marketing to children.

This isn't the first time that Hassan has raised concerns about loot boxes in video games. In February of this year, the New Hampshire Democrat wrote to the president of US rating agency ESRB Patricia Vance to ensure that this body was doing all it could to protect children.

All of this follows the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront II with its rather aggressive monetisation mechanics in November 2017. That title was far from the only new release to feature loot boxes, it due to the IP it was by far the highest profile example.

Since many countries have investigated loot boxes in video games. Belgium has straight up banned them as it sees them as gambling, whereas the Netherlands is allowing this business model but has taken issue with the real world value of items, so has cut down on trading.

A UK Gambling Commission report on the entire sector has observed an increase in children who have opened loot boxes, but has downplayed the connection between this an 'exposure to gambling'.

The United States is actually quite late in looking into loot boxes - though a representative from Washington state is part of a global body on this business model in games, while a representative from Hawaii condemned Battlefront II as an "online casino" in late 2017.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.