Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Alexander Mann


The video game industry has blossomed from a niche hobby into a mainstream cultural industry, outpacing global box office sales in annual revenue. Yet the price of a video game has barely increased since the industry’s inception, and the current standard price point of sixty dollars has survived for over a decade. Competitive market forces drive companies to invest ever more time and money into creating increasingly complex software in order to remain on the cutting edge of graphics and design, while simultaneously increasing revenue. Thus, video game developers and publishers have developed a multitude of alternative money- making services to provide revenue beyond the initial sale of a game. Of these, the one technique that has garnered the most attention, and the most legislative scrutiny, is the “loot box.” Through this system, players are allowed to pay a sum of real-world currency in exchange for receiving one or more random in-game items. This technique simulates gambling practices yet escapes current gambling oversight, leaving games containing this technique available to anyone. This includes vulnerable populations that do not have the capacity for rational spending, such as minors and those suffering from gambling addiction. Though loot boxes stubbornly persist in existing titles and popular franchises, market forces are slowly phasing out the practice. While current regulatory forces discuss loot boxes, other monetization methods are rising to replace them and no law currently stands in the way of their return. Efforts should be focused toward creating a video game distributor regulatory board, fostering parental education regarding electronic parental controls, and enacting long-term legislation at state and federal levels to prevent similar issues from occurring in future.

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