On August 7, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a workshop examining consumer protection issues related to “loot boxes” in video games in Washington, DC. Loot boxes are digital containers of virtual goods that a user can purchase in-game using real-world currency or earn based on meeting certain in-game milestones. A user does not know what is in the loot box before purchasing. It may contain digital goods (such as character skins, tools, weapons, etc.) that the user can use in the game. Importantly, the user cannot choose the contents of the loot box. The box could contain an extremely rare/sought-after item, or the contents could be a collection of items already owned by the user (or somewhere in between).
Loot boxes are a form of micro-transaction that video game manufactures rely upon to offset the cost of game development, which, as explained in the workshop, has risen from tens of thousands of dollars to, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the FTC and other consumer groups are concerned that these transactions may come as a surprise to consumers (especially parents of small children) if they are not properly and clearly disclosed.