Proposed legislation will ban pay-to-win games; the last remaining arcades start packing it up
U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) will propose legislation banning “pay to win” features and in-game “loot boxes” in games for children under 18 and games with a wide user base but “whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions.”
The proposed legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to treat pay-to-win features and loot boxes as an “unfair trade practice.”
Senator Hawley is basing his proposal the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, noting that video game companies “shouldn’t be able to monetize addiction.”
While aggressive monetization has been a significant problem in modern gaming, widening the door to government regulators could backfire on gamers. The video game industry has largely been left to self-regulate, at least where content is concerned. Once government forces get their hands in shaping game content, the temptation to use the massive gaming industry to promote other agendas will almost certainly rise. Will we be better off with dictates from special interest-driven government officials which enforce “family values” or remove “problematic” from games?
With regard to Sen. Hawley’s new legislation, it’s pretty easy to see how it takes a sledgehammer to a problem that requires a scalpel. Given the broad language of the proposal, wouldn’t most arcade games be banned under the new rules? Certainly classic arcade games like Double Dragon or Konami’s X-Men would be considered “pay-to-win” given their difficulty. The original Gauntlet arcade game is flat-out impossible to complete on a single quarter. All pay-to-win, all marketed towards kids.
There are already mechanisms in place to correct gaming’s over-monetization problems, unfortunately they aren’t acting quickly enough for some. The ESRB could adjust ratings for games with pay-to-win or loot box features, and expanding opportunities for informing consumers, particularly in digital storefronts, is probably an appropriate and acceptable response to some game publishers over-monetizing their products.
Don’t trade loot boxes for Pandora’s box.