The United States Federal Trade Commission has said that it will investigate the use of loot boxes in video games and their impact on players. Democrat Senator Maggie Hassan asked the agency to investigate loot boxes in video games, saying during a hearing that they are “now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smart phone games to the newest, high budget releases.” According to the New Hampshire lawmaker, the loot box industry will be worth around $50 billion within 3 years time.
This is not the first time that a US body has raised eyebrows at the use of loot boxes in video games and has questioned whether they constitute gambling or not. Earlier this year, Washington State joined 15 European regulators by signing an international declaration that they would tackle the spread of the industry and contain its impact on minors. However, this is the first time that loot boxes ill be investigated by a federal US agency.
The Federal Trade Commission has said that it will investigate the issue and then report its findings to Congress. The agency will determine whether are not loot boxes can be deemed a form of gambling under state and federal laws. It will also look at whether loot boxes encourage gambling behavior, especially among minors.
As soon as the FTC completes its investigation, it can ask Congress to work on legislation to tackle any problems that came up or it can pass its own regulations.
The US could be taking its cue from other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia who have already begun their own investigations into these questions. Australia is even weighing the option of banning loot boxes altogether, as is Belgium and other Western European countries.