Sen. Hassan told Variety the attempts by the industry to self-regulate have not been enough and again cited the United Kingdom report: "The need for FTC action becomes more apparent given the recent report from the Gambling Commission of Great Britain and the steps other countries have taken to regulate loot boxes". She cites another report from the UK Gambling Commission "finding that 30% of children have used loot boxes in video games".
"So given the seriousness of this issue, I think it is in fact time for the FTC to investigate these mechanisms to ensure that children are being adequately protected and to educate parents about potential addiction or other negative impacts of these games", Hassan said, before asking FTC commissioners if they would commit to investigating the issue and keeping the subcommittee informed about what they find.
A loot box is a sort of catch-all term describing the purchase of mystery in-game items using real currency.
The FTC has stated it will investigate loot boxes at the request of Senator Maggie Hassan. While the Aussie report acknowledges, and even sympathizes with, the economic realities of the video game industry, it ultimately found loot boxes to be a legitimate risk.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government undertake a comprehensive review of loot boxes in video games. Hassan points out that loot boxes are present in games of all types, from the lowliest casual mobile games up to expensive AAA titles.
Nevertheless, the FTC's probe may push the industry to adopt more consumer-friendly practices on integrating loot boxes. As Kotaku noted today, Star Wars: Battlefront II also completely overhauled its system after getting fan feedback and moved away from "pay to win" loot boxes.
While this isn't the first time the ESA has defended loot boxes, it's interesting to see the USA trade body stand firm while the FTC prepares to dig deeper.
To be honest, this new investigation could end up being a big game of cat and mouse, as the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the government-level interests of games publishers, told Polygon that loot boxes "enhance the experience that video games offer" and "are not gambling".