Loot boxes, the bane of wallets and consumer-conscious gamers across the globe, and then combined with EA, the company gamers love to hate, the combination is as toxic as the most nightmarish garbage fire.
One can’t talk about these two issues without wading into the muck of opinions and factual information that seems to swirl around these topics like flies attracted to largest of dung piles. So I for one would have been just fine ignoring the whole mess this week, but it seems that EA just can’t keep from making the headlines for doing something stupid, or in this case, something actually smart for once.
You see, Electronic Arts has been under legal and popular pressure for months now following a string of controversies over their implementations of loot boxes in various games. The last couple of years alone saw EA nearly lose the Star Wars license entirely over the disastrous launch of Star Wars Battlefront II. That was in addition to EA being voted one of the worst companies in America.
And now, it seems as though the tide has finally turned against the gaming giant. After rather publicly refusing to remove loot box mechanics from their FIFA series of games, which feature the divisive but popular FIFA Ultimate Team cards, it seems that legal threats finally forced the company to cave and remove the feature entirely, at least in Belgium.
Players still can access Ultimate Team and play with their existing players. And according to EA, “all content in the game can be earned through gameplay as has always been the case,” although this argument completely ignores the intentional railroading nature of these systems. Wherein the loot boxes are designed to offer gameplay advantages that grant paying players a leg up on the competition. It’s this problem that is always ignored by defenders when they call loot systems “optional”.
This development comes a short while after the Belgian Gaming Commission classified loot boxes as gambling last year, and filed a complaint against EA when the publisher refused to remove loot boxes from its FIFA titles.
“After further discussions with the Belgian authorities, we have decided to stop offering FIFA Points for sale in Belgium,” reads the publisher’s statement.
You can read the full statement from Electronic Arts over here. Me, I’m going to go laugh myself silly over EA having to eat crow. Now we just have to hope that the pressure keeps mounting until loot boxes have been entirely revamped, hopefully to the point that they no longer taint the games industry with pay-to-win nonsense, although the amount of money this garbage rakes in makes that outcome very unlikely.