The world of gaming has been hit with a new controversy recently. Namely, the current issue faced by the gigantic EA Games company is a legal battle in a few European states. The lawsuits filled against them are stating that a certain very popular feature that appears in the majority of console games, FIFA included, is at the cusp between a simple in-game feature and gambling. The reason invoked is that the feature, called FUT Packs, can only be accessed with coins that you earn in-game or if a player makes a payment inside the game for FIFA Points, on top of the initial buying of the game itself.
The initial reaction of someone less knowledgeable in both gambling and gaming would be one of utter surprise. Surely, the online gambling scene has expanded massively over the years and this boom has set a lot of new trends in this specific area. But at first glance, the offers from websites like Casinobonusca.com , for example, are not at all similar to what a player will receive in the available ‘Loot Boxes’ of the popular FIFA game. Classic online gambling is very similar to a casino experience, just that the interface is digital. Bonuses and prizes are only meant to increase your chances in the casino card games like Blackjack or Poker or the other amusements like Roulette or Slots. However, EA is accused of using the same tactics as online casinos.
The Loot Boxes are not a new thing, or unique to EA for that matter. In most video games, a player can somehow receive one such box which may contain various small prizes, to use in the next levels of the games. They are similar to the popular Mystery Boxes, one prosperous online trend, where customers buy a box with a certain theme (gaming, music, makeup, and others) and they receive a bunch of products of that category that amount to payed sum. The FIFA ‘Loot Boxes’ come with new players that might increase the percentages of your team.
One of the countries that is implicated in this multifold case is France, where a player is accusing the gaming company that they use the addictive nature of the game to earn even more money from players, as the potential prizes are very attractive, but also costly. The player is represented by two lawyers that have compared the Loot Boxes with a very simplistic form of gambling: exchanging money for potential prizes. The accusation goes so far as to say that the FIFA case is even more dangerous than normal gambling because the EA version is conceited under another name and not accepted by the developer as such.
The problem is not isolated in the Hexagon, however. In England, the thrill of not knowing what you receive from the purchased package is considered a threat similar to the one of gambling. These conclusions were made by the DCSM (The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK) and they claim that the uncertainty of what the purchaser receives in exchange for extra money is too similar to other aspects defined in the Gambling Act and the underlying problem is that games like this are mainly meant for young people and children. As they cannot legally gamble, the nature of the Loot Boxes should either be officially defined or made unavailable for players that are still minors. Some have proposed that these surprises be available only with in-game credits that will be accessible only to players that play a lot and well.
If these legal cases are to be settled in favor of the part that says the Loot Boxes are a part of gambling, then it might result in this particular digital product to be banned all over the EU (as it currently is in places like The Netherlands or Belgium) and probably to other territories by extension.
This is not the first controversy of EA Gaming and in-game purchases. In 2017, the Star Wars-themed game, Star Wars Battlefront II, had an even worse issue with Loot Boxes, as most of the interesting characters and game play was available only after the player made several other purchases of Loot Boxes. Each box came with a surprise that could only be seen after purchasing and without them, players catalogued the game as bland.
The end of this controversy will probably regulate the concept of these types of payable features and give them a definitive state: are they or are they not a gambling product and by consequence, are they or are they not suitable for children.