Legislating Loot Boxes

How much is Darth Vader worth?  This question has, in a roundabout way, caused some legislators and regulators to look at how video games make their money.  The recently-released video game Star Wars Battlefront II originally had a profit model which locked large portion of the game off behind timed barriers.  One estimate, for example, was that it would take roughly 40 hours to unlock the ability to play as Darth Vader.  This wait could be drastically reduced by purchasing loot boxes, which had a chance of containing in-game currency.  One estimate claimed that, under Battlefront II’s original pricing model, it would take, on average, over 4500 hours to unlock everything.  Conversely, the loot box payout structure would have given the same result for roughly $2100.  Although, as of this writing, the game’s publisher has scrapped this pricing model after a huge backlash, it brought the issue of loot boxes to the attention of the public and legislators. Essentially, a loot box is a randomized package of in-game items, purchased with real money.  It adds an element of chance, as a player may get a rare item for a small amount of money, or, more likely, may spend more than the actual cost of the game for common items.  The thing that makes loot boxes more worrisome than, say, a pack of baseball cards is the fact that some games are designed entirely around promoting the purchase of loot boxes.  Given that the items contained in loot boxes make the player’s character more powerful, and that the game is a competitive one, not buying loot crates puts players at...