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FTC Preps Video Game 'Loot Box' Workshop

The FTC has set its final agenda for an Aug. 7 workshop, on video game "loot boxes" and consumer protection. 

Loot boxes are "in-game rewards that contain a random assortment of virtual items (“loot”) to assist a player in advancing in the online game or to customize his or her game avatar." They are paid for by virtual currency that are either earned in a game or paid for with real money. 

They are both a growing revenue stream and a growing concern over whether kids--and adults--are getting addicted to such purchases.  

Related: Hawley Bill Takes Aim at Social Media Addiction 

NPR recently aired a story on the pros and cons of loot boxes, the cons being some people who spent thousands of dollars on in-app game purchased without realizing they were running up some totals, the pros including that it was a way for developers to monetize games whose initial price was low or free.  

The commission is looking broadly at in-game purchases and the impact of virtual rewards on consumer behavior. 

Panels for “Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes,” will deal with the impact on various video game monetization models on users, the social and psychological motivations with in-game spending, and initiatives for disclosing microtransactions and other consumer protection models. 

Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, will provide opening remarks at the day-long workshop.