Hawaii’s Attempt at Randomized Reward Regulation
As I mentioned in a previous article for PlusGaming, Hawaii crafted 4 bills to regulate Randomized Rewards (Loot Boxes) in video games. Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee, worked on 4 bills that could be passed into law. House Bill 2686, Sentate Bill 3024, House Bill 2727, and Senate Bill 3025 failed to pass any committees. The purpose of these bills where to:
- Restrict Sales of any game that has Loot Boxes to adults ages 21 and up. Reflecting gambling age restrictions in Hawaii and many other US States.
- Require clear labeling to inform customers and parents if Randomized Rewards (Loot Boxes) are included in the game.
- Require games clearly reveal the odds of winning rewards to their customers.
These Bills have failed to pass a committee and have failed. So, what went wrong?
Failure to Meet Deadlines and…being changed?
It seems that three of the four bills lost steam. The 4th was altered into something unrelated. House Bill 2686 would have put a 21+ age restriction on any game with Loot Boxes. This Bill sadly didn’t pass a single committee in the house. Therefore, the bill was killed by the end of January. The corresponding Senate Bill, 3024, managed to pass into the House, but was unable to pass any committees.
House Bill 2727’s intent was to require games to disclose each items odds. Additionally, it would also require them to prominently label games that have in-game purchases for “Randomized Rewards.” This bill managed to reach the Senate, but eventually failed to pass any further committees. It’s companion, Senate Bill 3025, had a different fate than the others. The House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce amended the bill and removed all of the text pertaining to House Bill 2727. In it’s place, they replaced it with a requirement for Franchisees to disclose if they are not participating in a Franchise’s Promotions. For example, if a McDonald’s in Hawaii will include a nationally advertised deal. This Bill managed to pass all committees and will receive a final vote in the House.
Is This a Complete Failure?
In all honesty, I’d have to say it’s a partial win. The original intent of these 4 bills was to fire a warning shot at the Gaming Industry. To tell them “Regulate yourselves responsibly, or we’ll do it for you!” In some ways, it has worked. At least one of the video game publishing giants (EA) has taken note. EA has seen how strongly people where angered with Star Wars Battlefront 2 (EA).
They decided to make Loot Boxes earned in-game, removed star cards from them, and disabled the ability to buy them with premium currency. You can’t buy Loot Boxes to get star cards to progress. Many other publishers and even more developers where shaken at the prospect of government regulation. Many game developers admitted they rethought their tactics when it came to Microtransactions and Loot Boxes in their titles in development. Thankfully, this may helped Publishers and Developers realize that greedy and predatory mechanics in their games can and will hurt their public image and amount of games sold.
In conclusion, I’d have to say the 4 bills may have done their intended job. It’s too early to say if the tide was turned enough. For now, we must sit and wait to see where this goes.