FTC Hosting Public Workshop On Loot Boxes This Year
The Federal Trade Commission is planning to hold a public workshop later this year to analyze the video game industry’s sale of loot boxes. The workshop would bring together the video game industry and consumer advocates to discuss concerns and possible outreach around the controversial practice.
A letter to Variety from FTC chairman Joseph Simons to Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) revealed the workshop, in response to a letter Hassan had written expressing her concern about the practice. Simons noted that he cannot reveal any legal action underway that isn’t already public, but stressed that the FTC has other tools available.
FTC chairman Joseph Simons declines to comment on the alleged investigation, but he says that the agency will open up a public forum on the video game industry’s sale of loot boxes in the next few months. A preliminary effort, the move could indicate that the regulatory body wants to gather perspectives from both the gaming industry and consumer advocates before pursuing legal action.
“For example, we are currently planning a public workshop on loot boxes for later this year as one non-law enforcement option,” he wrote. “A workshop could provide a forum for stakeholders representing wide-ranging perspectives, including consumer advocacy organizations, parent groups, and industry members. It also could help elicit information to guide subsequent consumer outreach, which could include a consumer alert.”
In a statement, Hassan praised the workshop as “a step in the right direction,” but emphasized that the FTC should keep working with various stakeholders “to ensure that meaningful improvements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections.”
Last year, Hassan also wrote a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) asking it to look into the practice of marketing loot boxes to children, and to formalize best practices for microtransactions. Shortly after, and amid mounting pressure from other advocacy groups, the ESRB announced it would label games with in-game purchases.
Senator Hassan said:
I appreciate the FTC’s continued engagement on the issue of loot boxes, particularly in regards to the well-being of young gamers. A public workshop on loot boxes is a step in the right direction, and I encourage the FTC to continue working with consumer advocates, parents, gamers, and industry members to ensure that meaningful improvements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections around loot boxes.
Some in the industry are pressing for change, though many feel it should come from self-regulation.