Senator Hassan calls for further protections by ‘predatory’ monetization

A member of Congress can be asking for more consumer protections by the gaming industry’s aggressive monetization practices.

Sen. Maggie Hassan of brand-new Hampshire sent a letter on Feb. 14 to the Entertainment Software Rating Board asking the body to review its ratings policies on in-game microtransactions, or “loot boxes.”

along with right now she can be considering taking further action if the ESRB doesn’t do enough.

“I urge the ESRB to examine whether the design along with marketing approach to loot boxes in games — especially those geared toward children — are being conducted in an ethical along with transparent manner which adequately protects consumers by predatory practices,” Hassan said in a statement to CNBC Thursday. “I am cautiously encouraged by the ESRB’s initial statement, however if they fail to take meaningful action, I will work with colleagues along with consumers to consider additional steps to improve transparency into how loot boxes are advertised along with used in games.”

The ESRB can be the gaming industry’s self-regulatory body which assigns ratings for video games along with apps so consumers can make more informed game-buying decisions.

A spokesperson for Hassan later clarified the “additional steps” comment meant she might consider urging the Federal Trade Commission to take action on “loot boxes” if the ESRB does not act to her satisfaction. The spokesperson added This particular can be “too early” to discuss legislative steps or hearings.

When asked for comment an ESRB spokesperson pointed to body’s original statement last week in response to Hassan’s letter:

“We received Senator Hassan’s letter along with appreciate her confidence in along with support of the ESRB rating system. For more than two decades we have earned the trust of parents around the country by helping them make informed decisions about the games their children play. As the industry evolves, so does our rating system, along with we will continue to make enhancements to ensure parents continue to be well-informed. We will also continue to provide information about additional tools, including parental control guides, which help parents set spending along with time limits along with block potentially inappropriate games based on the ESRB-assigned age rating.”

The recent furor over microtransactions began after gamers revolted over Electronic Arts’ initial in-game moneymaking plans, which included “loot boxes,” in its “Star Wars Battlefront II” title last November.

Hassan’s full letter sent to the ESRB last week can be below:

Patricia Vance
Entertainment Software Ratings Board

Dear Ms. Vance:

I write to today regarding an important gaming issue which was recently brought to my attention by a constituent.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has an important mission in both providing parents with the necessary information to make decisions about the suitability of games, along with their content, for children, as well as ensuring which the industry can be following responsible marketing practices.

The ESRB rating system can be of great value to parents across the country, empowering parents to make informed decisions on behalf of their children. As technology advances, ESRB must work to keep pace with brand-new gaming trends, including the in-game micro-transactions along with predatory gaming tactics, particularly as they are deployed on minors.

The prevalence of in-game micro-transactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles along with enticing mechanics which closely mirror those often found in casinos along with games of chance. The potential for harm can be real. Recently the planet Health Organization classified “gaming disorder” as a unique condition in its recent draft revision of the 11th International Classification of Diseases. While there can be robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact which they are both expensive habits along with use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny. At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games.

To which end, I respectfully urge the ESRB to review the completeness of the board’s ratings process along with policies as they relate to loot boxes, along with to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children. I also urge the board to examine whether the design along with marketing approach to loot boxes in games geared toward children can be being conducted in an ethical along with transparent way which adequately protects the developing minds of young children by predatory practices.

Further, I urge the ESRB to consider working with the relevant stakeholders — including parents — to collect along with publish data on how developers are using loot boxes, how widespread their use can be, along with how much money players spend on them.

Finally, I ask which you develop best practices for developers, such as ethical design, tools for parents to disable these mechanisms, or generating them less essential to core gameplay.

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