The lootbox controversy reached new heights recently, with lawmakers in Hawaii putting together a collection of bills that could make it difficult for publishers to continue using what they're calling light gambling mechanics in games.
All told, four bills are making the rounds in Hawaii, spearheaded by Rep. Chris Lee. He's the guy who spoke out against loot boxes when the controversy surrounding progression systems within Star Wars Battlefront II reached a fever pitch.
As Lee notes, not all instances of loot boxes in games are created equal. While some are relatively easy to earn and grant access to cosmetic items (Overwatch, Destiny), others offer in-game advantages for competitive play or, worse, are specifically implemented and drip-fed to players in ways that blatantly encourage the spending of real-world money. The major focus here is that players are paying real money for items without knowing what they are getting until the loot box opens, which could be considered predatory toward folks who have issues with gambling.
There are four bills, all told. As noted by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024 are geared toward prohibiting the sale of any game featuring these types of systems to anyone under the age of 21. In other words, if you can buy loot boxes in a game, no matter what the game's rating, you will no longer be able to purchase it unless you're also legally old enough to gamble (by U.S. standards, anyway).
Two other bills -- House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025 -- would require publishers to prominently label games that feature "randomized purchase systems," as well as disclose the probability rates of rewards received. In other words, if you're going to fork over some extra cash hoping for a particular skin for your character in Paragon, the publisher would need to make it clear what your chances of getting that reward actually are. It's unclear if this is based on rarity or if it gets so granular as to include individual items.
As for Lee, he told the Tribune-Herald that he grew up playing video games and, over the years, he's watched certain practices shift toward exploiting people, "especially children, to maximize profit." Again, Battlefront II beats at the heart of Lee's argument, a game that boasted arguably some of the worst examples of how to implement loot box systems that, being based on Star Wars, clearly has a large audience of minors being conditioned to accept these systems as normal.
The saying "this is why we can't have nice things" comes to mind. We can't fault publishers for trying to come up with new ways to maximize profits. Things were pushed too far, though, and some would say in a direction that is far too hostile toward consumers. When you make such a big misstep that various governments and regulatory bodies around the world take notice, it's no surprise that someone finally decides to take action in an effort to protect those same consumers.