Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is on a mission to stop video games aimed at children from profiting through what he calls in-app “pay-to-win” schemes.
What are the details?
The freshman lawmaker’s office announced in a news release Wednesday that he will introduce a bill “banning the exploitation of children through ‘pay-to-win’ and ‘loot box’ monetizing practices by the video game industry.”
Hawley argued, “Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices.”
Specifically targeting Candy Crush — which the news release called a “notorious” example — Hawley pointed out the problems with free games that allow players to purchase additional “lives” and other advantages through in-app purchases. The game’s 268 million monthly users shell out enough to earn the developer $2 billion annually.
The Washington Post noted that “parents have complained to the Federal Trade Commission that such charges often happen without their permission or end up being much larger than they expect.”
Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, is on board with Hawley’s proposal, telling the Post, “Tricking kids into spending money while they play games is unacceptable and should be illegal.”
How is the video game industry responding?
The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group representing the gaming industry, said there are existing mechanisms in place to not only protect kids, but guard parents’ wallets.
The association’s president and CEO, Stanley Pierre-Louis, told the Kansas City Star in an email, “Parents already have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy-to-use parental controls. … Furthermore, as a parent, it’s my right to choose what games and services are appropriate for my children, not the government’s.”
Pierre-Louis also told the Post, “We look forward to sharing with the senator the tool and information the industry already provides that keeps the control of in-game spending in parents’ hands.”