US Senator Takes Aim At Predatory Loot Boxes And Microtransactions

United States Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is taking aim at microtransactions in video games, asking the ESRB to review things like loot boxes and decide whether or not use of loot boxes needs to be displayed on a game box. In a letter to ESRB president Patricia Vance, Hassan started off by saying the issue was brought to her attention by a constituent.

With the changes to technology that come in a field as dynamic as video games, the ESRB “must work to keep pace with new gaming trends, including the in-game microtransactions and predatory gaming tactics, particularly as they are deployed on minors,” Hassan wrote, according to Glixel.

The former governor of New Hampshire added that loot boxes raise “several concerns” regarding the “use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance.

“The potential for harm is real.”

Hassan went on to point out that the World Health Organisation recently announced that “gaming disorder” has been classified as a medical condition on the group’s latest Classification of Diseases document. She added that what makes loot boxes more problematic is that they can be targeted at children.

“While there is robust debate over whether loot boxes should be considered gambling, the fact that they are both expensive habits and use similar psychological principles suggest loot boxes should be treated with extra scrutiny,” she said. “At minimum, the rating system should denote when loot boxes are utilized in physical copies of electronic games.”

Hassasn added that she is urging the ESRB to review its policies around loot boxes and, in future ratings, take the “potential harm” that loot boxes could have on children into consideration. She went on to say that the ESRB should look into whether or not the marketing of loot boxes in video games aimed at children is being done in an “ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.”

What’s more, Hassan said the ESRB should work with “relevant stakeholders” to put together and ultimately publish data regarding how video games use loot boxes, how commonplace they are, and how much money is spent on them. Lastly, Hassan said the ESRB should put together a “best practices” document that developers can look at in an effort to make loot boxes “less essential to core gameplay.”

Hassan asked the four FTC commissioner nominees about loot boxes in a hearing this week. You can see a video of that embedded above.

The ESRB’s official line is that loot boxes do not constitute gambling and as such should not have to be regulated by the government. Of course, not everyone agrees. Just recently, lawmakers in Hawaii put forth a pair of bills that would ban the sale of video games with “gambling-like mechanisms” to people under 21. Bills with similar language have been introduced in other states, including Washington and Indiana.

This is a developing and ongoing story, so keep checking back with GameSpot for the latest.

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Capcom President: Monster Hunter World Would Be ‘Difficult’ to Bring to Nintendo Switch

Capcom’s President has said bringing Monster Hunter World to Nintendo Switch would be Difficult.

Kotaku reports Japanese business magazine Toyo Keizai asked Capcom President Huruhiro Tsujimoto about bringing Monster Hunter World to the Nintendo Switch.

Tsujimoto confirmed Capcom is aware of the request but added “However, taking into account various conditions, bringing Monster Hunter: World now for release is difficult. The reason is that the Switch has different functions from other stationary consoles as well as different players.”

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Overwatch Public Test Realm Hero Changes Detailed

The newest hero changes coming to Overwatch’s Public Test Realm have been detailed.

In the latest developer update video, game director Jeff Kaplan explains that an error made during the main game’s latest patch meant that some heroes received changes which were not yet ready for release.

Instead, they were meant to roll out in an update to be tested on the game’s public test realm server, which is out now and includes balance changes to heroes Mei, Doomfist, and Sombra.

Mei has been buffed with her freeze duration going from 1 second to 1.5, and a few extra shots have been added to her secondary icicle fire. Doomfist’s ammo recovery to his hand canon has also increased.

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Solo: Striking New Poster Release

Solo: A Star Wars Story gets a striking new poster, with Ron Howard announcing Iron Man director Jon Favreau has an important role in the movie.

The poster, revealed on Twitter, promptly features all of the main characters in Solo, including Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo, Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’Ra. Check out the image below.

New Solo: A Star Wars Story poster, image via Twitter.

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Heads Up: Big Kindle Sale on Comics and Sci-Fi Right Now

If you buy something through this post, IGN may get a share of the sale. For more, read our Terms of Use.

Love is in the air, but forget all of that. Today you can save a whole lot of money on all things Kindle. From devices, to books, to digital comics, Amazon and Comixology have loaded up their quiver of deals arrows and set Cupid on the loose to shoot you through the heart with savings.

Before you check out the discounted books and comics, it may be worth checking out the free trial for Kindle Unlimited, which gives you access to a whole lot (to put it mildly) of books and comics free for 30 days and $9.99 a month after that.

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Star Wars: Thrawn #1 Review

Marvel has published some great Star Wars comics over the past few years, but their track record hasn’t been so swell when it comes to adaptations of existing stories. Both The Force Awakens and Rogue One were rendered lifeless and inert in comic book form. The twist with Marvel’s latest Star Wars adaptation, however, is that it draws from a novel rather than a film. That gives writer Jody Houser and artist Luke Ross far more material to work with and immediately yields stronger results.

Star Wars: Thrawn is an adaptation of Timothy Zahn’s 2017 novel, which provided the definitive, Lucasfilm Story Group-approved version of Grand Admiral Thrawn’s origin story. Either the novel or this comic are ideal for fan of Star Wars Rebels who want to learn a little more about the strategic mastermind who’s become such a thorn in the side of the growing Rebel Alliance. Houser and Ross don’t stray far from the source material in this first issue, covering the novel’s opening chapters in truncated form and often directly reusing pieces of Zahn’s text.

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Splatoon 2 Is the First Switch Game to Sell 2 Million Copies in Japan – IGN

It’s Off the Hook.

Splatoon 2 was released for the Nintendo Switch last July and of all of the console’s stellar titles so far, it’s the first to sell 2 million copies in Japan.

Siliconera reported the figure, courtesy of Famitsu‘s sales tracker. Since its release on July 21, 2017 to February 11, 2018, the game has sold 2,016,182 copies, not including digital sales.

Exit Theatre Mode

Nintendo has supported the shooter with DLC throughout the year, engaging the community with the game’s Splatfest events that determine player rankings.

The Switch’s launch title, Breath of the Wild, hasn’t sold quite so well in Japan, but has reached a milestone of its own; it’s the highest-selling Zelda game in the country since 1998’s Ocarina of Time accorsing to figures from Game Design Gazette.

Exit Theatre Mode

Splatoon 2’s success has resulted in both a manga series and an anime spin-off, and the title even got its own themed Switch bundle.

It’s an online shooter for gamers who don’t play online shooters, and if our review isn’t enough to get you playing, amiibo aficionados might be interested in the newly announced Pearl and Marina two-pack coming later this year.

Shabana is a freelance writer who enjoys JRPGs, wine, and not finishing games. Follow her on Twitter.

Steam Purges Developer’s Games After Manipulated Review Scores

Insel Games has had its games purged from Steam after the developer was discovered manipulating review scores with fake accounts.

A Reddit post claiming that the company’s CEO was threatening to fire employees if they didn’t buy the game and leave positive reviews on Steam caused Valve to investigate.

In an update today, Valve said that it had “identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game.

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