The anti-loot box bill that has been a talking point in the games industry over the past month has garnered more support in Senate prior to its introduction today, as two Democratic senators have committed to the proposal that would see a ban on the sale of loot boxes to children. The bill is the brainchild of Sen. Josh Hawley, who proposed it two weeks ago and was met with polarizing responses from critics both inside and outside the video game industry.
Hawley's bill would essentially see the banning of any games marketed to children that implement pay-to-win mechanisms. The bill, called the "Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act," would see all games forbidden from selling loot boxes to children also. It would represent a complete restructuring of the mobile games industry in particular, which relies heavily on microtransactions to support its free-to-play models. While the debate over whether or not that's acceptable continues, it could mean dire times for fans of mobile games ahead, especially considering Nintendo felt it was easier to simply pull its games from Belgian stores rather than restructure them to comply with that country's anti-loot box measures.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Ed Markey, both representatives of the Democratic party, have endorsed Hawley's bill according to a report from Polygon, which means it has achieved bipartisan support ahead of its formal introduction today. Hawley and Blumenthal have previously worked together to make changes to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, so both of them have experience in creating safer spaces for children in electronic envrionments. Blumenthal had this to say regarding the introduction of the new bill:
"Congress must send a clear warning to app developers and tech companies: Children are not cash cows to exploit for profit."
Under the bill, a publisher or developer could be fined for including microtransactions or loot boxes in children's games, or for allowing kids under 18 to use them in any game whatsoever. Because of the harsh restrictions the bill would impose, that would mean essentially every mobile game in existence, save for ones that are explicitly for mature audiences, would be affected by the bill, not to mention titles like Overwatch. The result would be an upheaval of the video game industry in a way that's never been seen before.
Of course, there's a chance the bill doesn't make it through Senate. There's no guarantee it will be viewed as reasonable, or other Senators might attempt to reconstruct it to be less harsh. But if the bill does pass, then the video game industry will be completely altered, and the mobile gaming platform especially will be in for some drastic changes in the near future as developers and publishers scramble to find ways to monetize games in a market that has now trained people to expect them for free.