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. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.