EA Games has been making headlines recently, and not for the reasons you might think. The controversy has arisen from the use of Loot Boxes and whether or not they are promoting underage gambling. While opinions on this matter are strong, no definitive universal conclusion has been reached. However, this has not stopped several countries from outlawing them all together, and other countries are fiercely debating them. The core issue is whether Loot Boxes constitute gambling material and whether or not they are harming younger gamers. By the end of this article, you will have all the information needed to draw your own conclusions on this controversial topic.
What are Loot Boxes
To have a complete understanding you will need to know what Loot Boxes are. With FIFA Ultimate Team there are two ways of building the strongest possible squad. The first requires players put in a ton of hours to rack up in-game funds to buy better players. The second way is to use real cash to buy Loot Boxes – like a pack of cards on FIFA, which can contain better players. However, there is no way of knowing who you will get when you buy a FIFA Loot Box – superstars, or ringers.
So What is the Problem With That?
The problem is that some see Loot Boxes as a form of gambling. Not such an issue when adults are involved using money they have set aside specifically for the purpose. Some say that the method of enticing players to buy these blind packs is an ‘addictive technology’ that is drawing in children who need to be protected. Chairman of the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport in the UK (DCMS), Damian Lewis MP said: “Loot Boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm.’
What is being done?
Some games companies have taken action on their own. Indeed, Electronic Arts themselves deactivated the ability to buy Loot Boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II when there was a backlash against a perceived unfair ‘pay to win’ system. Shortly after the developer took this step, Loot Boxes were restricted or banned outright in the Netherlands and Belgium. The conclusion of the DCMS report was to ban the sale of Loot Boxes to children. However, the UK Gambling Commission does not see them as gambling sites as cash prizes are not on offer. Further action in the UK would require a law charge to pass.
So are Loot Boxes like those found in FIFA gambling? There is no one definitive response right now, and opinion remains divided. As they do not result in direct cash prizes, it is difficult for regulatory bodies to step up and make a clear stance either way. Until governments wade into the debate, Loot Boxes are unlikely to be withdrawn completely by developers – they are just too lucrative to pass up. For now, in most countries, the decision rests with players and parents who will need to make the decision for themselves and act in the way they see best.