There are two bills that are currently coursing through the Hawaii state House (Bill 2686) and Senate (Bill 3024); both aim to ban the sale of loot boxes to gamers under the age of 21. Yes, you heard that right -- loot box sales would carry the same age-based restrictions as purchasing alcohol. The bills state that these "randomized rewards" have to be purchased with real money and there is no way of knowing what you will receive until you part ways with that money.
The second two bills, House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, would add further stipulations that publishers must properly disclose the odds of obtaining each randomized reward within a game.
“I’ve watched firsthand the evolution of the industry from one that seeks to create new things to one that’s begun to exploit people, especially children, to maximize profit," added Lee earlier this week following the movement of the bills through both chambers. He also went on to add that publishers like Electronic Arts have been accused of employing psychologists to develop mechanisms that would entice children to in essence "gamble" to obtain items found in loot boxes.
“If enough of the market reacts, the industry would have to respond and change its practices,” Lee added.
Back in November, Lee, who has been at the forefront of the war on microtransactions/loot boxes, likened Electronic Arts' Star Wars Battlefront II to a "Stars Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all."
Electronic Arts eventually caved on its overly aggressive microtransaction system after gamers complained about the need to devote roughly 40 hours each to "unlock" key Star Wars characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. These two characters initially required 60,000 credits each to unlock, even though actually completing the game only netted you 20,000 credits.
Microtransactions have become a big business for game companies, so it should come as no surprise that the practice is spreading like wildfire. As we reported over the weekend, Activision-Blizzard booked over $4 billion in revenue from microtransactions alone during 2017. That figure was even higher than the revenue that it generated from the actual [initial] sales of video games.
It seems as though when it comes to software, many companies are looking towards models that ensure a continuing revenue flow rather than a "one and done" shot with regards to pricing. Look no further than products like Office 365, or even BMW, which is looking to charge customers a yearly subscription just for the "honor" of unlocking Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support on its vehicles.