If you haven’t heard about Sen. Josh Hawley’s anti-loot box bill yet, here’s the gist of it; loot boxes and micro transactions will be banned from video games if they offer any sort of advantage to players buying them. Special weapons, bonus EXP, anything that will give a player an edge for shelling out money that another player didn’t. Naturally, many games will suffer adverse effects from this, but sports games are one of the genres that will take the biggest hit.
The reason this will be the case is because the bill ultimately condemns nearly all the ways in which licensed team sports video games makes their money; or at least, most of the ways they make their money.
This will affect practically all the sports games people love; FIFA Ultimate Team, NBA 2K, and even MLB The Show, which is practically the last full service baseball title in existence. As it stands, while Hawley’s legislation is mostly just a thought exercise for the moment, it’s largest potential affected gaming constituency is sports gamers.
The bill has a very vague yet broad reach, but not without some awareness of the video gaming industry. It provides exceptions for things like MMO subscriptions or premium cosmetic items. It even excludes charging money for extra difficulty modes, as well as DLC that expands the game itself or adds more content onto it. This is all well and good since it leaves developers with some options, but it doesn’t help the main source of revenue for most sports games these days; ultimate team modes.
The idea is generally pretty simple; you shell out real cash for the low chance of getting a star athlete for your ultimate team. And of course, if you really want to have the ‘ultimate’ team, then you’ll need to shell out a lot of money to get several dozen sports legends. In 2017, this type of marketing strategy brought in $800 million for EA’s live services revenue.
NBA 2K’s MyCareer is in a similar boat; we don’t have exact numbers on how much that makes, but considering that Take-Two Interactive signed a deal paying the NBA just over one billion dollars over the next seven years, it is very likely that they’re making a lot of money selling similar ‘loot boxes.’
In short, the amount of revenue that these games produce will drop by a massive margin if this anti-loot box bill is passed. And as we all know, if a product isn’t profitable, companies generally don’t waste time and resources on them. Now considering how much money is to be made here, it’s quite likely the bill will face heavy lobbying from those game publishing companies. They might even get the professional sports folk to support the cause as well. After all, the NBA is making a billion dollars off of this. But until the bill is argued to a conclusion, we have no idea if it will pass or not.