A bill that would ban loot boxes has been officially introduced before the United States Senate. Now industry lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has responded, criticizing the bill for what it calls “inaccuracies” and a misunderstanding of how video games actually work.
“This legislation is flawed and riddled with inaccuracies,” ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis said in a statement (via USGamer). “It does not reflect how video games work nor how our industry strives to deliver innovative and compelling entertainment experiences to our audiences. The impact of this bill would be far-reaching and ultimately prove harmful to the player experience, not to mention the more than 220,000 Americans employed by the video game industry. We encourage the bill’s co-sponsors to work with us to raise awareness about the tools and information in place that keep the control of video game play and in-game spending in parents’ hands rather than in the government’s.”
The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), aims to regulate what it characterizes as predatory and casino-like mechanisms in video games, particularly ones aimed at minors. Specifically it would bar the sale of any randomized unlock, with the exception of difficulty modes, cosmetic items, and expansions. It also targets pay-to-win content, defined as anything that gives a competitive advantage.
The PCAGA defines “minor-oriented video game” very broadly, in such a way that it could impact lots of games that aren’t necessarily meant for children. It also sidesteps the ESRB’s own age classifications for these criteria.
Loot boxes have come under fire recently, following a controversy over their use in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and concern over their similarity to gambling. Some countries, like New Zealand and France, have already ruled that the practice does not constitute gambling. Belgium and the Netherlands reached the opposite conclusion, forcing Rocket League developer Psyonix to disable its loot box mechanic in the countries. Nintendo will be pulling a few of its own mobile games from Belgium altogether.