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GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

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GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Old 05-09-19, 09:37 AM
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GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

https://www.axios.com/gop-senator-jo...008333165.html

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) will propose banning "pay to win" features in some video games, as well as certain in-game "loot boxes," in upcoming legislation first announced on Wednesday.

The bottom line: These bans would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general. It would target games for children under 18 and games with a wide user base but "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions," per Hawley's press release.

Details: The FTC would treat the distribution of games with "pay to win" features and "loot boxes" as an "unfair trade practice," Hawley's office said.
  • Hawley said game developers "shouldn't be able to monetize addiction" in children and highlighted the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act as a baseline guide for the bill.
Hmm ... whattya think? One on hand, you gotta think parents should be smart enough to disable those types of in game purchases, but I know damn well that most parents are clueless. Obviously some in app purchases are more predatory than others, but how do you draw the line? To be honest if this law could cause things to go back the way things were before in app purchases existed, I'd love that (though I'm not sure on the legality of that). On the other hand, mobile apps are practically built on in app purchases, so outlawing that would cause quite the uproar.
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Old 05-09-19, 11:09 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Welp, without getting political, I'd say that a company has every right to earn money and while I don't condone people spending money they don't have on pay to win games, if you have the money, who cares? Aaaand, I'd tell that senator that special interest groups are kinda the same thing... so if they stop paying him to see their points of view, will he be ok with that?
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Old 05-09-19, 11:16 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Well the law is pretty much focused on kids, forgot to mention that this law would only apply to games targeted to kids under the age of 18.
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Old 05-09-19, 11:28 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

I don't like these types of games but I think a law banning it is not necessary. I can't say much else without getting political.
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Old 05-09-19, 11:32 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

I have mixed feelings about the practice in general. On one hand, people are responsible for their own actions to the extent of how and when they choose to spend money on this stuff... but there's no denying that the core mechanics and systems put in place are extremely predatory, and anyone at risk of becoming addicted to gambling is as much (if not more so) at risk of falling into these traps too.

But this law is about games targeted to children under 18, as joe says. And in that respect, it NEEDS to be regulated in a far better manner, so I support this senator's proposal. This is something that should get bipartisan support, honestly.
We have all our accounts locked down so there's no way for my kid to spend money on anything, but even still, I steer her away from games that have those kind of systems in place to begin with, because mentally, they lead to desiring more and more of that style of gameplay/content; being bombarded with in-game ads and in-game pressure to upgrade and buy random digital shit with "fake" currency that can only be acquired by shoveling real currency into it on a regular basis.

Fortnite (marketed for ages 13 and up with it's T for Teen rating), employs some of the worst, most predatory types of this behavior that ropes in adults and children alike. This video is a good primer on it:
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Old 05-09-19, 11:40 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

I don't think Fortnite would be affected by this law, as to my knowledge all the content is cosmetic and not pay-to-win.
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Old 05-09-19, 11:42 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
I don't think Fortnite would be affected by this law, as to my knowledge all the content is cosmetic and not pay-to-win.
Isn't that still a loot box, though?
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Old 05-09-19, 11:47 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's not loot boxes, you just buy items outright.
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Old 05-09-19, 11:48 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

I know someone who's on disability because of mental health issues. She lives on government checks. She also has worse impulse control than a healthy person like you or me. She ran up a bill of a couple hundred dollars in one week playing games on her phone. That money came out of her food budget for the month. I ended up buying groceries for her to get her through until the next check.

I really dislike the business model of giving away free games that are designed to be addictive as possible, and then charging money on the back end to take advantage of people with addictive personalities, who have poor impulse control, or who are immature.
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Old 05-09-19, 11:50 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Originally Posted by fujishig View Post
Isn't that still a loot box, though?
I don't play fortnite, so don't know for sure, but this says they stopped doing lootboxes a little while ago:
https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/...xes-purchases/

Overwatch does lootboxes, though. I think as long as the microtransactions are for cosmetics, and you know exactly what you are buying, it wouldn't be against this law:

These are the 3 types of transactions that would be banned:
Loot Boxes – Microtransactions offering randomized or partially randomized
rewards to players

Pay-to-win - Manipulation of a game’s progression system – typically by building
artificial difficulty or other barriers into game progression – to induce players to
spend money on microtransactions to advance through content supposedly available
to them at no additional cost

Pay-to-win - Manipulation of the competitive balance between players of multiplayer
games by allowing players who purchase microtransactions competitive advantages
over other players
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Old 05-09-19, 11:50 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's not loot boxes, you just buy items outright.
You're probably right, I have no idea how fortnight works. But if they're banning microtransactions on the basis that they are addictive, I'd think you'd have to look really carefully at how Fortnight's battle packs (or whatever they're called) works and the cumulative effect there.

That second type of pay-to-win: the one about the difficulty barriers enticing you to buy stuff to progress. They either need to reword it to something like "impossible to progress without microtransactions" or there will be no mobile games left. I mean stuff as far back as farmville allow you to buy stuff so you don't have to wait around, which is an artificial barrier to let you pass that if you're impatient, but decent F2P games allow you to still progress, just at a slower pace.
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Old 05-09-19, 12:01 PM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Originally Posted by fujishig View Post
That second type of pay-to-win: the one about the difficulty barriers enticing you to buy stuff to progress. They either need to reword it to something like "impossible to progress without microtransactions" or there will be no mobile games left. I mean stuff as far back as farmville allow you to buy stuff so you don't have to wait around, which is an artificial barrier to let you pass that if you're impatient, but decent F2P games allow you to still progress, just at a slower pace.
I'd be fine with this Mobile games have literally become shit these days. Most free games I download get deleted within the first 5 minutes of play because some horrible waiting mechanic (or despicable mandatory video ad). If we can get to a place where mobile games were all FULL games at $3-$5, I would totally be down with that.
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Old 05-09-19, 12:45 PM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Several years ago, both Apple and Amazon had to settle with the FTC for terrible parental controls in their devices.
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Old 05-09-19, 01:42 PM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Originally Posted by joeblow69 View Post
I'd be fine with this Mobile games have literally become shit these days. Most free games I download get deleted within the first 5 minutes of play because some horrible waiting mechanic (or despicable mandatory video ad). If we can get to a place where mobile games were all FULL games at $3-$5, I would totally be down with that.
That will never happen. These games get made because rubes collectively spend millions of dollars on them.
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Old 05-09-19, 02:00 PM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

Originally Posted by The Questyen View Post
That will never happen. These games get made because rubes collectively spend millions of dollars on them.
That's why I'd be perfectly happy if those games just didn't get made anymore.
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Old 05-10-19, 06:15 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

From Nov 2018.... https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-ne...ook-it-n941256

[COLOR=left=#2a2a2a]The commission's chairman, Joe Simons, said during a congressional oversight hearing on Tuesday that the regulator would look into the in-game loot boxes, a response that came after Sen. Maggie Hassan, Democrat-N.H., sent a letter to the Entertainment and Software Ratings Board (ESRB) [/COLOR]asking it to investigate loot box practices[COLOR=left=#2a2a2a].[/COLOR]

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Old 05-10-19, 07:16 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

There's so much crap that needs fixing in Washington, DC and some nut is worried about video games. The other 99 things on the list need their attention before this should even be brought up.
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Old 05-10-19, 08:23 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

^ because politicians can't multitask.

This is an issue about teaching children to gamble and get addicted to gambling behavior via predatory methods that currently go completely unregulated. That needs to be addressed (whether it's given the A-OK or with measures put in place), no matter how you look at it.

Apparently one of the big ways most of these companies are avoiding the regulations is to have players use real-world currency to purchase in-game currency instead of using the real currency in the game. It sounds like a minute detail, but it's a key component. So in other words, like with Fortnight (described in the video I posted, and assuredly only 5% of you watched ), they use V-bucks. V-bucks, once purchased, cannot be exchanged back into real currency like USD. Once it's in-game, it's in-game for good. This is unlike true online Casinos because those use real money and the real money can then be transferred back into your own real world account (if you ever actually win. Ha!). By making users purchase fake-bucks, then using those fake-bucks on any time of goods/services within the game, none of the Casino-like regulations apply to them, even if they're doing the exact same things that Casinos do. At least, that's the way I understand it.

edit: and from the OP, in case there was any confusion,
It would target games for children under 18 and games with a wide user base but "whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions,"
So not just games targeted at kids, but also games where they know kids are an active part of the user base, such as Fortnite, Overwatch, etc.

Last edited by Dan; 05-10-19 at 08:30 AM.
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Old 05-10-19, 08:50 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

While this seems like an idea nobody would argue against, how much of a problem is it? Like how many kids take over their parent's bank account without permission and spend a ton on these things? I think it's a problem with the gaming industry as a whole and certainly an issue with adults that would spend obscene amounts of money they don't have, and certainly "gacha" mechanics have gone way too far, but I would think with kids that's up the parents to regulate.

I don't think it's the in game currency that's the "gambling" thing, I think the argument is that no matter what, when you buy one you get something of value, unlike gambling where you could get absolutely nothing. I do think that we should have a law like Japan where the probabilities are published by mandate.

Last edited by fujishig; 05-10-19 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 05-10-19, 09:04 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

I can see both sides of this issue...one we need more oversight and one we need to keep some or most of it away. I personally don't care for More Government anything. Once they get their hooks and hands into whatever...might as well forget it because it's always "More Involvement with More Rules & Regulations)....and you never ever see Less. It's a know fact, most Politicians crave the power of dictating what you can say, do, wear, eat, go...your whole aspect of your life.

But be it Video Game Loot Boxes, Facebook, YouTube...the entire Social Media Complex has a degree of responsibility along with Parents who basically let "Poor Little Innocent Cuddly, Cute Johnny" do whatever without hardly paying attention. All sort of just shrug their shoulders, say no big deal, everyone does it, it's everywhere, Blah, Blah, Blah and then when something happens, they all do a CYA, act concerned and end up pointing fingers calling for, "We need more rules, regulations, oversight, etc..."...when it's THEY that need to look in the mirror.....

I'm sure the majority of us gamers out there are mostly responsible and have the common sense to use proper judgement. Sadly though there is a vast amount out there who don't which has to be the minority. And once again we see where it's the actions of the Minority that will impact everyone and once again individuals (Gamers & Parents) will not be held responsible as the Devs, CEOs, Firms painted out as the Big Mean Evil Preying Greedy Scumbags who is at total fault....which in the end WE ALL WILL PAY in some form or another. Sadly we've become a society which, "It's always someone else's fault, not me" with zero accountability and responsibility. No-one holds a gun or forces someone to sign saying they Have To Buy $200-$400 worth of cosmetic crap....and somewhere somehow that's in the form of Credit Card or Currency Cards that had to be purchase...someone is seeing and knowing full well what they're spending

But be warned...if you want the Government to step in on Regulating Loot Boxes...you can take it to the bank, they'll start Regulating content, type of game, if they promote violence, hate, if there's not enough equality, etc....
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Old 05-10-19, 09:04 AM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

fujishig, I don't disagree. I think part of issue with what you're suggesting, "I would think with kids that's up the parents to regulate," is that it's very difficult to be certain of which games partake in these practices, and which do not. Sure, every app store now has a "this game/app has in-app purchases" warning, but that warning applies to all types of in-app purchases, not just the predatory ones. And if you're a parent, looking for a cheap/free game for your kid to play, it's nearly impossible to discern which games are doing this stuff and which ones aren't. And, unfortunately, there's a high level of trust that most people have with the billion-dollar companies that run these app stores; they assume that if a game is targeted to kids, then Apple or Google or Microsoft or whoever have vetted these games to not partake in predatory game mechanics. But they don't.
So, I do agree that parents bear an amount of responsibility... but parents are also targets of these practices too, and I think it's very difficult to educate people (anyone) on exactly what these games are doing that's so egregious.


edit: and for what it's worth, I was in Target the other day, and overheard a mother scolding her son (aged maybe 10? 12? I don't know.). He wanted to use her phone, and she said something like, "NO! You spent $45 on it last month with your games!" I don't think this is an exception... I think this happens a lot. Sure, she should have her shit locked down, but again... I wouldn't be surprised if she was wasting money on Candy Crush or whatever, too.
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Old 05-10-19, 11:57 PM
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Re: GOP senator proposes banning "pay to win" in some video games

At least on iOS, you can't really make in app purchases without a fingerprint or unlock code and a payment method tied to your account. As a parent, you're not going to be able to vet all games, but you can certainly tell your kids that they have a limit they can spend, and can only buy things with your permission/access. That cuts these games off at the knees. If you let your kid have unfettered access to a phone and let them charge whatever they want... well there are worse things they can do than buy a bunch of in app transactions. Also, as a mobile game player, I can tell you that playing these games for free and grinding through them is probably more addictive than anything else, though it's mainly time that's being wasted.

From the developers standpoint, they are certainly going after all the money they can get, but they aren't targeting kids. Usually, they're concerned enough about getting hammered that they will instantly refund purchases made even accidentally by minors. They want no part of that. They do want to hook adults with money, though.

I guess my problem is not that these aren't addictive (they are), it's that they're using the "oh no we have to protect the kids" to go after this. If you want to have a discussion about addictive games, that's a discussion worth having (and it won't end well for most gamers... mmorpgs for instance. Heck, I guess we're lucky arcades aren't popular because those machines are/were designed to suck up real money from kids).

The other thing is that you can't go around this with just ratings... Rated M games are still for 17 and older and they consider 17 to still be a kid. So even if you make fortnight rated M (not that parents pay much attention to that), it still will violate the law. And if a kid has unfettered access to purchase stuff, he's going to be able to download rated M games anyway.
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