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US lawmaker outlines plans for anti-loot box laws

Back in November, Hawaii representative, Chris Lee, rose to prominence in the gaming scene after he called out Star Wars Battlefront II's loot box system, blasting EA's microtransaction scheme as a ‘predatory practice'. He also branded the game as a ‘Star Wars-themed online casino' in a video announcing his plans to pursue loot box legislation in the US. Now a few weeks later, he has outlined some of his legislation plans in more detail.

In a new video, Lee expresses his desire to prohibit the sale of video games with a ‘gambling mechanic' to anyone under the age of 21. This restriction would cover any purchases present in a game that include a ‘percentage chance' to get a specific in-game item. This would apply to both physical and digital copies of games sold.

Aside from that, Lee wants to stop publishers from being able to adjust drop rates for items on the fly to keep users spending money. Here is his statement on that: “Once the algorithm identifies a player who's likely to keep spending money to buy that one ‘unicorn thing' that they're after, then they lower the odds and then you keep spending more. It's absolutely unethical and unfair.”

According to PCGamer, there are no verified reports of publishers engaging in this particular practice, though the site has come across information of the opposite happening. Some games apparently include something called a ‘pity timer', which does the exact opposite by increasing drop chances for good items the longer a player goes without receiving one.

Still, Lee is working on the assumption that publishers can and do adjust drop rates on the fly to keep people spending money. With that in mind, he is proposing an ‘accountability' piece of legislation to ban behind the scenes drop rate changes. Presumably this means that publishers would have to be upfront about drop rates, rather than hiding them. There is a similar law in place in China, which Blizzard's Overwatch loot crates had to comply with last year.

Finally, Lee has called on US residents to write to their state reps to ask them to consider supporting these new laws. There is even a pre-made letter that people can send to their reps if they don't want to come up with their own.

KitGuru Says: For now, everything is still in the early stages. Drumming up support is step one on the long road to legislative action. What do you guys think of Lee's proposal so far?  Do you think laws are needed to keep publishers in check? 

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