It’s become depressingly common for video games to implement loot boxes as a monetization scheme, but gamers are increasingly up in arms about it. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) pledged to investigate the use of loot boxes in games, and now we know how it’ll start. On August 7th, the FTC will hold a public workshop on loot boxes, and you’ll be able to watch it live.
No one has ever been pleased that loot boxes existed in games, but the uproar was confined to gaming communities until EA messed with Star Wars. The beta test for Star Wars Battlefront II revealed a loot box system that made hero characters incredibly costly to unlock. EA took so much heat online that it had to temporarily remove loot boxes and revamp the in-game economy.
Battlefront II isn’t alone — loot boxes are featured in games like Apex Legends, Overwatch, FIFA, and more. Some countries have taken steps to limit the use of loot boxes, which many gamers consider akin to gambling. For example, EA had to remove loot boxes from its FIFA games in Belgium.
The FTC is tasked with protecting consumers, so it’s the best hope for those who want to see limits imposed on loot boxes. The August 7 workshop, titled “Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes,” will stream live on the FTC website, and you’ll be able to submit comments on the topic to the FTC through October 11. The workshop will cover the history and mechanics behind loot boxes, research examining consumer behavior in the context of loot boxes, and the way these features are marketed to consumers.
Those who care about the issue of loot boxes won’t find much new information in the workshop, but it could provide hints about the FTC’s intentions. It may also bring the issue to the attention of people who can do something about it. The agency is still open to suggestions on workshop topics through June 7.
We can’t know what the outcome of this workshop will be. Perhaps the FTC will continue investigating and decide on common sense rules to protect consumers from the more manipulative aspects of loot boxes. On the other hand, the workshop might be the last we ever hear on the topic from the FTC.
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