Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is looking to crack down on video game companies he says "exploit" children with in-game purchases.
The Missouri senator on Wednesday announced he will introduce the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act to ban the use of "pay-to-win" monetization practices and loot boxes in video games aimed at children.
“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn't be allowed to monetize addiction," he said in a statement. "And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions."
The phrase "pay-to-win" is used to refer to video games in which players are encouraged to spend money in order to achieve gameplay advantages. Hawley's bill is also looking to ban loot boxes, a game feature that allows players to pay real money for a selection of randomized items. This practice, the senator argues, combines "the addictive properties of pay-to-win with the compulsive behavior inherent in other forms of gambling."
As a "notorious example," Hawley cites Candy Crush, the popular puzzle game that is free to play but sells in-game purchases to make the game easier, including one that costs $150. The bill applies to any games "targeted at those under the age of 18," as well as those "with wider audiences whose developers knowingly allow minor players to engage in microtransactions," the senator says in a press release.
The Entertainment Software Association, a lobbying group, told Kotaku that the industry already has the tools to keep "the control of in-game spending in parents' hands," saying parents "have the ability to limit or prohibit in-game purchases with easy to use parental controls." Brendan Morrow
The creators of the massively popular online game Fortnite have acknowledged a security flaw that may have put players' accounts at risk.
Check Point Research said Wednesday they discovered a bug that would allow hackers to obtain users' login username and password if they clicked on a phishing link; the user would not need to enter any information at this link for their account to be taken over by the hacker, they say. The group blames this on a "vulnerability found in some of Epic Games' sub-domains."
Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, says that the security bug has been fixed, though it did not disclose how many users were affected. "We thank Check Point for bringing this to our attention," the company said, per Fortune.
Since Fortnite thrives off in-game currency, once a hacker had logged in to a victim's account, they would be able to make purchases using the person's credit card information, The Washington Post notes. Check Point Research also points out that hackers could have been able to listen into private chats by impersonating the user they hacked, although Epic Games clarified to The Verge that the hackers wouldn't be able to eavesdrop on the person whose account they'd taken over.