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Event Description

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission examined consumer protection issues related to video game loot boxes at a public workshop on August 7, 2019, in Washington, DC. Loot boxes are in-game rewards that contain a random assortment of virtual items (loot) to assist a player advance in the online game or to customize his or her game avatar.

The workshop brought together a variety of stakeholders, including industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, academics, and government officials to discuss concerns regarding the marketing and use of loot boxes and other in-game purchases, and the potential behavioral impact of these virtual rewards on young consumers.

Topics this workshop covered included:

  • A look at the in-game transaction landscape, including the origins and evolution of loot boxes and their role in game play and the digital marketplace;
  • Research examining consumer behavior, including child and adolescent behavior, in the context of video games and digital transactions; and
  • A discussion of consumer awareness and education about in-game digital transactions, including the mechanics, marketing, and financial commitments associated with loot boxes.

FTC staff also welcomes written comments on the issues discussed at the workshop. Public comments should be submitted online by 11:59 pm ET on October 11, 2019.

Attending the workshop

The workshop, which was free and open to the public, was at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, D.C., and was webcast live.

A BCP staff artist’s representation of Inside the Game.

A BCP staff artist’s representation of Inside the Game.

  • 10:00 am

    Welcome and Opening Remarks

    Andrew Smith
    Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission

    10:15 am*

    Panel 1: Treasure or Trifle? A Macro Look at Microtransactions

    This panel will explore the role of loot boxes and similar mechanics in the video game ecosystem and the impact of these monetization models on end users. 

    Panelists:

    John Breyault
    Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud,
    National Consumers League

    Omeed Dariani
    CEO, Online Performers Group

    Renee Gittins
    Executive Director, International Game Developers Association 

    Jeff Haynes
    Senior Editor of Video Games and Websites,
    Common Sense Media

    Sean Kane
    Partner and Co‐chair of the Interactive Entertainment Group,
    Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz

    Michael Warnecke
    Chief Counsel, Tech Policy,
    Entertainment Software Association

    Moderators:

    Brittany Frassetto
    BCP Division of Financial Practices, FTC

    Andrew Wone
    BCP Division of Advertising Practices, FTC

    * There will be a 10‐minute break between panelists’ presentations and the moderated discussion.

    12:15 am

    Lunch

    1:15 pm

    Panel 2: Head in the Game – What Drives Loot Box Spending?

    This panel will address potential social, psychological, and economic motivations associated with loot box spending.

    Panelists:

    Sarah Domoff, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology,
    Central Michigan University

    Adam Elmachtoub, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research,
    Columbia University

    Andrey Simonov, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Marketing,
    Columbia Business School

    David Zendle, Ph.D.
    Lecturer, Computer Science,
    York St John University

    Moderator:

    Patrick McAlvanah
    Bureau of Economics, FTC

    2:35 pm

    Break

    2:45 pm

    Panel 3: A Level Playing Field – What’s Fair Game?

    This panel will discuss current initiatives for disclosing in‐game microtransactions and explore ideas for other mechanisms that may enhance consumer protection.

    Panelists:

    Ariel Fox Johnson
    Senior Counsel for Policy and Privacy,
    Common Sense Media

    Anna Laitin
    Director of Financial Policy,
    Consumer Reports

    Patricia Vance
    President,
    Entertainment Software Rating Board

    Keith Whyte
    Executive Director,
    National Council on Problem Gambling

    Moderators:

    Mary Johnson and William Ducklow
    BCP Division of Advertising Practices, FTC

    4:00 pm

    Closing Remarks

    Mary K. Engle
    Associate Director, BCP Division of Advertising Practices, FTC

  • Request for Comments

    Public comments should be submitted online by 11:59 pm ET on October 11, 2019. If you prefer to file a written comment on paper, write “Video Game Loot Box Workshop” on your comment and on the envelope and mail your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex B), Washington, DC 20580, or deliver your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Constitution Center, 400 7th Street, SW, 5th Floor, Suite 5610 (Annex B), Washington, DC 20024.

    View comments already submitted

FTC Privacy Policy

Under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) or other laws, we may be required to disclose to outside organizations the information you provide when you pre-register. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments, whether filed in paper or electronic form, and as a matter of discretion, we make every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments before posting them on the FTC website.

The FTC Act and other laws we administer permit the collection of your pre-registration contact information and the comments you file to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. For additional information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, see the Commission’s comprehensive Privacy Policy.

This event is open to the public and may be photographed, videotaped, webcast, or otherwise recorded. By participating in this event, you are agreeing that your image — and anything you say or submit — may be posted indefinitely at ftc.gov or on one of the Commission's publicly available social media sites.