Democratic senator Maggie Hassan issued an official request for the investigation during a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing on November 27.
After detailing the potential issues with loot boxes, Senator Hassan asked FTC chairman Joe Simons to undertake an investigation. "Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smart phone games to the newest, highest budget releases", Hassan said.
In particular, the Senator was concerned about how accessible loot boxes are to children in mobile games.
Last we heard about loot box legislation, a collection of European regulators were teaming up to investigate loot boxes and other maybe-kinda-sorta gambling practices, with one American entity joining in: the Washington State Gaming Commission.
The inquiry is mostly focused on the dangers facing children, rather than the ethical side of the argument.
The list of games containing loot boxes has grown in recent months and includes popular titles, such as "Fortnite", "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" and "FIFA 18". They could "represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022".
Loot boxes have been a major subject of controversy in 2018, with numerous organizations debating the possibility of classifying them as gambling.
No timeline has been provided as of yet regarding when the FTC may kick off its investigation into loot boxes or what the investigation might amount to. But many consumers have objected to loot boxes as an exploitative monetization tool. She cites another report from the UK Gambling Commission "finding that 30% of children have used loot boxes in video games".
While loot-boxes are a trend worth investigating, basing the inspection on an untrue assumption about a link between them and a child's future gambling habits isn't the best reason.
Games that are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board now carry labels indicating to parents whether a product offers loot boxes.
A year ago, loot boxes were a persistent annoyance for gamers, but they didn't get much attention from the rest of the world. "They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not".