Today, United States Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a bill that would prevent game companies from selling loot boxes to minors. This would effectively end microtransactions in Ultimate Team modes for games like FIFA, Madden NFL, NHL, NBA 2K, MLB The Show and others. Hawley believes that gamers, children specifically, are exploited by games to make impulsive decisions by purchasing loot boxes (packs).
Hawley’s bill would strictly prohibit children under the age of 18 from purchasing in-game loot boxes. “Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits,” Hawley said.
A bill such as this getting passed would cause a seismic change in Ultimate Team modes in FIFA, Madden and NHL, as well as 2K’s myTeam and MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty. All five of said games make millions via in-game purchases and microtransactions. The majority of players making the purchases are certainly minors.
Pay-to-win procedures in games targeted at minors would also be banned if this bill were to pass.
Obviously, there is a lot of grey area here. While a game such as Madden NFL 19 doesn’t directly reward players who purchase MUT points, the only way to keep up with the game’s content cycle and compete at the highest level is to put in real money. It is simply not possible to have a competitive team in Madden Ultimate Team without buying points. By November, everyone has a team full of 99 overall players, cards that just aren’t attainable taking the “no money spent” route.
The constant need to keep up is certainly addicting for children and even many adults. “When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences,” Hawley said.
The problem with Madden is that the game is built to reward players with higher overall players. MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty could be protected here, as their game is built differently. Diamond Dynasty allows players to make stubs (coins) a variety of ways, and the game itself doesn’t blindly reward high overall cards, making hundreds of cards usable at the higher levels.
These games are often available for free, and certain levels or tasks are more easy to overcome with a stronger weapon or ability that can only be obtained through microtransactions. It would also apply to multiplayer games that empower players who spend more in microtransactions to more easily compete against those who don’t.
If the bill passes, it would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is allegedly already investigating the sale of loot boxes in video games, but Chairman Joe Simons has not yet confirmed or denied those rumors.
What do you think about microtransactions? Are they good or bad for sports video games? Do you think this bill or a similar bill will ever get passed? Let us know in the comment section below, and don’t forget to subscribe to SGO on YouTube.
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