When speaking to the U.S. Congress recently, the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) chairman Joseph Simmons said that the group plans to investigate loot boxes and their potential harm when it comes specifically to children. In addition, she pointed to a newly released report from the UK's gambling commission that found three out of 10 young people have paid money for loot boxes. "And to educate parents about potential addiction and other negative impacts of these games".
Hassan describes loot boxes as "endemic" to the videogame industry, citing unspecified research estimates in saying that they'll be bringing in $50 billion by 2022.
This issue was highlighted by the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) in 2017 as they called for the removal of loot boxes in titles such as Blizzard's Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.
In a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) discussed the issue of loot boxes with FTC commissioners. Which game do you buy loot boxes in? It touches on the history of loot boxes and makes note of the importance of the game industry to Australia, and the importance of loot boxes to the game industry, which "faces economic challenges from piracy and arbitrage and as such, has had to develop a range of revenue streams beyond retail sales". It's also interested in finding ways for parents to be made aware of which of their children's games include loot boxes.
In calling for the investigation, Hassan connected loot boxes to gambling.
ESA responded to Polygon: "Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer". Investigations will be composed around the threat that loot boxes pose to consumers. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase.
Senator Hassan has been spearheading an effort to regulate loot boxes in the US. As Kotaku noted today, Star Wars: Battlefront II also completely overhauled its system after getting fan feedback and moved away from "pay to win" loot boxes. The ESRB continues to defend them as "enhancements" to videogame experiences, and it's quite clear the "AAA" game industry has no intention of regulating itself, even in the face of possible outside intervention.