GOP, Dem Senators officially introduce loot box, “pay-to-win” legislation


Unironically, I might add.


I am very interested in whether the authors of the bill intend for this to apply to online collectible card games like Hearthstone. Both “pay-to-win” and “loot box” provisions may or may not apply. But there there are people who like the collecting elements of these games as much as playing the game, and as a person who collected a lot of Magic cards and who now has a few Pokemon decks to play with my daughter, I feel like it would take a lot of the fun away. (Though maybe taking away a certain kind of fun is the point since they think that kind of fun leads to problems)

The statement from the end of the article from the Entertainment Software Association is pure tripe. Maybe cut and paste from some other association responding to some other bill to regulate their industry. I don’t like “riddled with inaccuracies” as a vacuous anti-legislation buzzphrase.

Yeah but a hearthstone pack costs $1.50 or better with a 1:20 pack legendary to packs opened ratio, while a typical gacha game single summon costs $2.80-$4.20 with anywhere from a 1:100 to 1:20 chance of that single unit being the rare. In most of those games the expectation is you use $165-$250 worth of currency to get the unit you want with a new banner with new rates being brought out every week.

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That’s why I wonder about the intent. I feel like hearthstone’s costing model feels responsible (if that’s the right word). I think you really can play hearthstone ladder without spending money and honestly feel a bit like money doesn’t do much to help you win the game - you’ll still need to practice to be any good, and while you practice you could be earning the cards you need for a competitive deck for free.

A problem I run into with a lot of freemium games is that I’m actually happy to pay for a game I like, but that the options they have to pay into it are just terrible for someone like me. The return I’d get on a $10 or $20 investment is next to nothing. The game makers don’t want players who spend $10 once because they appreciate the game. They are going whale hunting.


I remember when I walk into our local gamestore, a guy is like “I make money from this”. Pays $16.00, get’s $2.00 in cards value back when he sells it to said game store. Gambling addiction is real and its an epidemic. This is like non-regulated gambling. This pay to win crap is dangerous and the only people who make out are the stupid TCG companies that get people addicted to this garbage. I literally had someone in the game store argue that it’s not gambling.

So I layed out these steps:

I have to pay to win

There’s a slim to none chance that I win

I have to continually put money in to play the game to ever have the slim to none chance to win

… o wait that’s gambling.

Kind of reminds me of this from It’s Always Sunny

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Maybe blizzard will do what they did in China where they sell crafting ingredients for money and, oh, btw, here are some bonus card packs to go with your crafting ingredients…

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“Pay-to-win” doesn’t mean pay money in to win money. It means pay money in to win the game with no chance of getting your money back. It’s a different problem than people thinking they can win their money back.

You can’t sell cards in Hearthstone, you can’t trade cards with other players at all. There’s no way to turn it into actual gambling for money. You can pay money to get card to help you win the game of Hearthstone, but you can’t pay money and win money.

I bought Magic Cards in 2014. I paid 30.00 and had little to no chance other than waiting years to get a portion on my money back. Then there’s literal scalping of cards by game stores. How is this different? I bought a box of Magic 2014 Deck Builder aka card game loot box. I made 6 bucks back, I effectively gained $-24.00. Explain to me how I’m not getting ripped off to a greater or equal expense?

I said in 2014, f**k this, this is unregulated gambling and an endless money pit.

People don’t really gamble because they think they will come out ahead financially. They might rationalise it that way to themselves, but it’s not how addictions are formed. The prize doesn’t have to be cold hard cash for it to be gambling and lead to catastrophic addiction scenarios.

They pay for the brain chemical mini-spikes of being a “little winner” every once and awhile. This is identical in motivation with pay-to-win games. It’s an unethical business model.


I feel like the expectations you are presenting are unreasonable. But I’m not saying there isn’t a problem. There is a problem if people can have the expectations you had about the game. No one is mistakenly buying Dark Souls thinking they can make money off of it. Some people are mistakenly buying Magic cards thinking they can make money. The game and the community somehow create that expectation.

I collected Magic cards and played the game in the same way as I bought Agricola. I never expected to make money, I expected to exchange my currency for a good or service I wanted.

I want to clarify if I feel like I’m being misinterpreted, but I agree that haggling out a definition of pay-to-win risks losing the larger point. I think that a lot of games run on exploitative models. They are whale hunting - trying to get a few customers who will pay extraordinary amounts of money into their game. Just like a casino operator, they ought to know this may be damaging to those customers and they don’t care if the money comes in.

The “is this pay-to-win?” thing isn’t a new argument with CCG players. Some people start playing, feel they can’t compete because their opponents have better cards than them, and give up saying it is pay-to-win. People who like the games get annoyed with that because they don’t feel the games are pay-to-win, they feel that skill is the determining factor.

But the real question is about the harm things are causing and the scale of that harm. Gambling addictions can have extremely severe repercussions. When it comes to Hearthstone, the idea that it is leading to harm on a significant scale is hard to swallow (for a number of reasons, chiefly that the amount you can spend on the game is effectively capped). But if there is going to be regulation that allows Hearthstone and doesn’t allow exploitative counterparts, then I’m not sure how to delineate between them.

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Hearthstone may not be the most exploitive of the drip-feed, random-pleasure-spiking Skinner boxes out there, but it is designed to be addictive, and not in a truly healthy way.

“Scale of harm” is not the same for everyone, but like alcohol, lotteries, and other money-making projects the game was designed to be popular first, and only. The free market left alone, will never police itself for its effect on people at risk. And the people at risk are very often the loudest at saying that everything’s fine, because it’s part of their self-rationalization of their choices.

I’m not singling out Hearthstone, there are worse, and lots of super fun things are potentially harmful and helpfully entertain people. But I wouldn’t trust the game-makers to find the best balance of fun vs. social harm. It’s not like it’s accidentally addictive, it was explicitly designed to be.

Have you considered investing in beanie babies or American Girl Dolls?


No. I don’t think anybody here is really understanding what I said. When I buy a game I expect that I’m going to have replay value. That’s just the thing there is no replay value with magic cards. Some people dump all of their money into these stupid cards. I’m not going to dump all of my money into these cards so that I can win a stupid game that’s ridiculous. The second thing I like to have is resale value for at least half. That is also pretty much impossible with this card game. Also when you buy the cards in these packs or “deck builders”, there’s a slim to no chance you’re going to get something that gets you your money back or earns you a profit.

TLDR: f**k magic cards, it’s literally unregulated gambling and/or loot boxes.

But you’re able to play with the dolls forever.

I like to play board games, I don’t care that magic is popular, it’s stupid. LOL was popular, it’s no longer as popular, people will burn out eventually. Not a doll person I’m afraid my friend.

Scrabble’s a great board game. You won’t be able to sell it back - but you can play it forever.

Nothing wrong with dolls - you can call them an action figure.


So far I own:

  • Memoir 44 and all the expansions
  • Dice Forge
  • Gloomhaven
  • Star Wars Rebellion + expansions
  • some others I’m forgetting at the moment.

It’s not my cup of tea, but I was impressed by the developers from a design and creativity and inclusivity POV after listening to this podcast:

Unlike the video game developers who see “loot boxes” as a way to turn kids into slots addicts, the MtG devs see their customer base as a community and take true delight in serving it in the process of making money.


The reason I am singling out Hearthstone is because I don’t think it is really an exploitative pricing model, but it seems to meet both criteria of “pay-to-win” and “loot box”. It makes me wonder if they are regulating the right thing. I also think it’s weird to call paying for more lives in Candy Crush “pay-to-win”. That’s “pay-to-play” like putting quarters in an arcade box.

No matter how I think about it, it always seems to come back to the problem being that the games are free in the first place. A guardian article from 4 years ago says that 97.7% of Candy Crush players play for free. Near that on the guardian page is a link to where I can donate money to the guardian. The guardian is free to read, but asks users nicely to pay what they can or what they feel it is worth.

The Guardian is explicit about the way in which they are free. Path of Exile is a game example of that - they do reward you with cosmetic effects, but they promise to always be free and explicitly ask for your support. They do sell boxes, but I imagine if that becomes illegal they’ll just stop selling the boxes and continue on doing what they are doing. The Candy Crush kind of free seems like it’s free in the same way bait at the end of a fishing line is free. And somewhere out there there are games that are far more exploitative than anything I’ve ever experienced, I’m sure.