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US loot box ban bill gains bipartisan support in the Senate

Image source: Josh Hawley's Media kit

Two Democratic Senators have signed on to Republican Senator Josh Hawley’s anti-loot box bill, providing bipartisan support for the proposed legislation that would fine publishers and game distributors over both blind loot boxes and “pay to win” mechanics. 

Hawley, a US Senator representing Missouri, released the full text of the The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act (pdf) yesterday, along with Democratic co-sponsors Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

Via GamesIndustry.biz, Markey described the gaming environment today as “an online gauntlet for children,” and said that “inherently manipulative” game features, such as making progression easier with the purchase of in-game time-savers, “should be out of bounds.”

“Congress must send a clear warning to app developers and tech companies: Children are not cash cows to exploit for profit,” Blumenthal said.

The bill itself gets fairly specific about what does and does not constitute a fineable pay-to-win transaction in games. Cosmetic items like weapon skins and character costumes are fine, but anything that offers a competitive advantage in PvP, of course, would be a fineable offence—not just for the game’s publishers, but for distributors like Valve as well. The bill also outlaws selling time-savers, the kind you often find in Ubisoft’s single-player games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

Hawley’s bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on which both Markey and Blumenthal hold seats. Should it find sufficient support there, it will make its way to the Senate floor for approval.