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The debate over loot boxes rages on and gamers have been asking for some kind of intervention, and it might come in the form of the Federal Trade Commission, which recently stated that it would be investigating loot boxes within the gaming industry.
Polygon is reporting that during a commission hearing recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it would be investigating loot boxes following the initial request from Senator Maggie Hassan, who you might remember from earlier in the year who initially asked the ESRB to consider adding a rating in games that contain loot boxes.
FTC chairman Joe Simons said that the regulator would be investigating loot boxes at Hassan's request, especially since the ESRB, and by proxy the parent organization the Entertainment Software Association, have failed to do anything about the loot box epidemic because the ESA claims that it's not gambling.
In fact, the ESA responded to the news about the Federal Trade Commission investigating loot boxes, telling Polygon...
Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.
Loot boxes were universally derided by gamers when they were included in games like Star Wars: Battlefront 2, so much so that gamers and parents started grassroots campaigns to get people to contact Disney to have them address the loot box situation in Battlefront 2. Many parents shared around an infographic saying that Disney was encouraging young kids to start gambling via loot boxes, and eventually EA announced that the loot boxes in the game would be removed.
The main issue most people have with loot boxes is that instead of allowing gamers to purchase the items from the cash shop and get what they want, gamers have to gamble on the chance of getting the item they want by opening a loot box.
Both Belgium and the Netherlands also came to the exact same conclusion after investigating loot boxes, which is why Belgium had loot boxes banned, forcing companies like Valve to remove loot boxes from games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Blizzard to remove loot boxes from Overwatch for the Belgian version of the games. Companies like EA decided to push forward with loot boxes and defy the country's laws, keeping the loot boxes in games like FIFA, which has resulted in an investigation into EA and subsequent legal fallout.
Senator Hassan has been warning others that loot boxes pose a dangerous threat, especially to young people who are susceptible to the gambling-like mechanisms. It will be some time before the FTC renders a verdict on the investigation, but it appears as if the ball is really getting rolling in the U.S. regarding some sort of actions taken against loot boxes in premium games.