The Regulation of Microtransactions in Online Gaming

By: Justin Hill

  1. Online Gaming

Since the year 2000, online player-to-player communication has become a paramount component in products released in the video game industry. Whereas traditional video games were centered around a quest or adventure which the player would try to complete, technological advancements have allowed players to communicate with fellow console owners around the world. The early stages of this player-to-player system began with consoles such as Atari ST and Macintosh, that allowed users to connect their devices via a MIDI input/output wire. In 1993, gaming platforms were expanded to include player-to-player competition through local area networks.[2] Sega Dreamcast was one of the first internet based consoles to gain widespread popularity, and it has been regarded as a precursor in online gaming in that the internet was at the core of the console’s setup and general functions.[3] In the early 2000’s, internet capabilities developed, computer processor technologies improved and the cost of technology dropped; allowing for easier and more efficient access to multiplayer internet opportunities offered by gaming consoles at that time.[4] In more recent years many consoles have an online component that improves the gameplay and interactivity of its games.

  1. Microtransactions

Microtransactions refer to a small financial transactions that take place on digital platforms such as gaming consoles and cell phone applications. These transactions generally involve the sale of in app or in game content through the use and sharing of credit card information. Recent studies have found that some in game purchases can be traded outside their respective games, effectively giving the purchases a real market value. Other in game features such as mystery boxes, where a player’s credit card is charged once per use, encourage players to spend more money in order to increase their chances of finding a rare item. These slot features have been identified as having potential addictive qualities not unlike those in online slot and casino venues. In response to a large volume of complaints regarding the effects of Microtransactions on the average player’s gaming experience, video game manufacturer Electronic Arts (EA) has, “overhauled [its] game’s microtransaction and progression systems, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers in the U.S., the Netherlands, Australia, and elsewhere from pursuing regulations against what they consider predatory practices and gambling for children.”

Games such as Battlefront and NBA 2K, that include casino like microtransactional features, should be regulated and monitored to ensure that these new age games do not circumvent established restrictions on American gambling or any international prohibitions on internet betting. Additionally, since video games are often marketed to a young audience, there is a potentially harmful risk of catalyzing or creating gambling and other additive tendencies in minors and other vulnerable groups

[1]Riad Chikhani, The History of Gaming: An Evolving Community, Tech Crunch (Oct. 31, 2015), https://techcrunch.com/2015/10/31/the-history-of-gaming-an-evolving-community/

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] What Are Micro Transactions and How Do Developers Use Them, Super Rewards (last visited Sept. 6, 2018), http://www.superrewards.com/micro-transactions

[6] Stefanie Fogel, Some Video Game Publishers Could Face Legal Action Over Loot Boxes in Netherlands, Variety (Apr. 19, 2018), https://variety.com/2018/gaming/news/loot-boxes-law-1202764617/

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *