Young UK fans of FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) may soon be in for a rude awakening after the nation’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee announced earlier this year that it would like to see the sale of video game ‘loot boxes’ to children restricted.
Loot boxes are characterised as ‘lots’ such as packs of cards, treasure chests or reward crates in video games that can be bought for real money or in-game credits that contain random items as well as other rewards of unknown values to the players buying them.
It is the unknown nature of loot boxes that has prompted critics to label them as a form of legalised gambling and thus one that should be kept out of the hands of children.
In fact, according to the DCMS it has identified worrying ‘psychological and structural’ similarities between the acquisition of loot boxes and traditional forms of gambling.
Loot Boxes Could Lead to Problem Gambling
These similarities, it surmises, could lead many young impressionable children to move on to various other forms of gambling and even potentially become addicted to them.
Weighing in on the issue the Gambling Commission has been quoted as saying that it is actively concerned about the increasingly blurred line between in-game purchases in video games (like loot boxes) and the various types of land and online gambling.
It’s becoming a very fine line as one leading no deposit online slots guide describes it.
However, because loot boxes are not specifically covered under the Gambling Act 2005 (under which the Gambling Commission operates), there are no laws or age verification measures in place to govern if not outright ban access to them by UK children.
That said laws are can always be amended and/or introduced which is why many of the world’s leading video game manufacturers will be watching the UK very carefully to see how it proceeds with regards to future loot box laws, legislation and regulations.
EA Produces FIFA Ultimate Team
This includes Electronic Arts (EA) the US-based digital interactive entertainment firm that owns and produces FIFA Ultimate Team, among many others. In its 2018 financial year EA generated net revenues of over $5 billion, much of that from the sale of loot boxes.
Hence the video game firm – and others like it – will rue the day if the UK becomes the global face of anti-loot box sentiment and possible legislation because they’ll feel the full financial effects if children in Britain and beyond if children up to a certain age are prohibited from buying loot boxes at will.
To understand the potential repercussions of such a move, it’s crucial to acknowledge that EA has produced its FIFA series of football-themed video games for two decades and in that time built up the video gaming franchise to be the biggest in the world.
This is unsurprising considering the popularity of football and video gaming around the world today, coupled with the fact that EA is a market leader in its field. In addition, its FIFA games are played by millions of players – young and old – all across the globe.
FIFA Ultimate Team Lets Players Choose Their Own Rosters
The reason that FIFA Ultimate Team is such a popular game is the fact it allows you to build your very own football team from the ground up. In other words everyone starts out with an average team and the challenge is to build it into something special.
FIFA Ultimate Team is also highly flexible in the way that you can play it offline if you want to play it by yourself or with a few friends, or online if you want to take on the best the internet has to offer. You can win in-game coins to buy increasingly better players or you can take your chances with packs of random player cards (loot boxes).
You can use these cards to select players from most football leagues in order to build up a team worthy of the greatest number of victories and rewards. Card packs in FIFA Ultimate team come in three player categories – Gold players rated 75 to 99, Silver players rated 65-74 and Bronze players rated 0-64. The gold players are the best.
Another popular feature of this FIFA video game is its Squad Building Challenges (SBCs) which allow you to submit your side to compete in various challenges for additional rewards. Needless to say, card packs or loot boxes are an integral part of this feature.
Over 30% of UK Players Aged 11 to 16 Have Paid for Loot Boxes
As integral as they are, however, an inescapable fact (according to a 2018 survey conducted by the Gambling Commission) is that an alarmingly high percentage of UK players aged 11 to 16 have paid for mystery loot boxes in cash or via in-game currency – many to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of pounds each.
The issue is that the content of these boxes is unknown to players which means they’re in effect gambling every time they purchase one. According to some critics this is akin to spinning the reels of a slot machine where every result is random and unknown.
The rush or exhilaration experienced by FIFA Ultimate Team players when they reveal a player they’ve been seeking and other rewards can become addictive, which is where the DCMS’s concern for the safety of children video gamers based in the UK comes in.
The other concern is that many children who play this and other video games with loot boxes or similar revenue generators are not mature enough to understand that they are just that, money generating tools, and that they don’t necessarily even need them.
Many Young Players Suffer from FOMO
That, coupled with how most children suffer from FOMO
(fear of missing out), has made sure that the loot box money keeps rolling in for firms like EA, but perhaps not for much longer if the UK puts age limits or outright bans in place for these financial devices.
It didn’t go unnoticed, for instance, when Blake Jorgenson the CFO of EA revealed in 2016 that the company generated in excess of £520 million alone from FIFA Ultimate Team and its endless supply of loot boxes. Ultimately, however, whether the UK will clamp down on video game loot boxes or not will remain to be seen.