If we can count on the AAA gaming industry to stand up for a principled position, it’s their entitlement to profit. Or more accurately, they’ll take a stand when the law attempts to prevent these companies from ruthlessly exploiting gamers with video games hamstrung in favor of gambling mechanics.
The latest dunce in the ongoing saga of loot boxes in games is of course, the king of companies that gamers despise, Electronic Arts. Since EA have consistently irritated gamers with forced loot box mechanics and botched game launches, they’re completely on the wrong side of the ire of the gaming community. Since Belgium ruled that loot boxes are gambling, there’s been a lot of mixed reactions from fans and gaming companies alike. And now EA is adamant that random card packs in FIFA games aren’t gambling.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson defended the card packs in FIFA games, saying the following:
We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money
FIFA 19 releases at the end of September, and it’s no secret as to why EA wants to fight this ruling. Digital Sales account for billions of dollars in their revenue streams. Loot boxes and similar mechanics constantly outpace game sales themselves in terms of revenue volume.
And of course, this comes after 2K attempted to manipulate gamers into going to bat for them so that company could also rake in millions of dollars from gamers through gambling mechanics. So it is not a very good look for EA to pull this.
If EA wins this case, we’ll probably see even more loot box bollocks in games, and you can bet that the likes of Blizzard, Take-Two and EA will shove them back into any games they can get away with. And if this appeal is lost, I could totally see more games having similar mechanics stripped for fear of more backlash or legal trouble. This could also lead to more countries, like the UK and France, reversing course and ruling loot boxes as gambling.
If you want my opinion, I hope EA lose hard. Loot Boxes and other mechanics are gambling, because it’s not about how many things you get in a pack, it’s about the randomization and variable chance which makes it gambling. It’s pretty clear cut in terms of a legal definition, but EA and other companies love to try and undermine these kinds of rules directly and indirectly. One such trick you’ll notice is that they refer to the Belgian ruling as “the interpretation of the law”. It’s a clever little rhetorical trick they use to avoid admitting that they’re attempting to subvert the law. But then again, huge companies love to feign shock when the law actually applies to them, and instead try to make people and consumers feel bad for actually applying legal precedent.
So I say again, screw loot boxes, and screw EA for saying they’re not gambling.