EA Defends Loot Boxes

Posted on 2019-06-27 by Sean Williamson

loot boxesWhen speaking in front of a UK Government panel this month, Kerry Hopkins, the VP of EA (Electronic Arts) Games, described her company’s use of loot boxes as quite ethical, and compared them to Kinder Eggs – the popular chocolate eggs with a surprise toy hidden in the centre.

She was defending her company and talking about the risks of loot boxes in video games. With certain studies linking them to gambling, regulators across the globe are examining the issue stringently, especially because it’s children who they are mainly aimed at. A loot box is a feature that allows players to pay to unlock rewards, such as weapons, costumes or special powers, and it’s been the subject of controversy over the last year.

Not Believed To Be Gambling

Hopkins told the MPs that EA doesn’t believe loot boxes are gambling. They believed them to be exactly like purchasing something, like a Hatchimal, a Kinder Egg or any other collectable surprise toy. She went on to say that these boxes were quite fun, and quite enjoyable to people. EA actually refers to loot boxes as “Surprise Mechanics”, said Hopkins, and pointed out their FIFA Ultimate Team and its packs certainly weren’t gambling.

Ryan Brown, a gaming journalist, disagrees with Ms Hopkins’ assessment, and he believes that those who actually play the games would also disagree. He explained that very few gamers like these paid for surprises and they don’t think they are fun. In fact, many in the gaming community believe them to be toxic, and that EA is among the worst of the offenders.

The Star Wars Debacle

EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II, released in 2017, was widely criticised by gamers because one’s progression in the game was linked to loot boxes, so it was practically impossible to progress in the game without spending money. Additionally, there was in fact no guarantee that the items unlocked would be of any relevance to the player at all, or add any value.

If a gamer decided to focus on collecting heroes instead, they couldn’t, as certain powerful characters or items were immediately available in paid for loot boxes, whereas players without money to spend would be stuck looking for the things for many hours, just to unlock one hero.

EA had single-handedly pushed loot crates into the realm of brazen dislike, so it is clear to see the irony as they now defend them, likening them to a fun surprise toy.

The ESRB stated in 2017 that it didn’t consider loot boxes gambling. They summed gambling up as wagering, but that cannot be applied here, as the digital goods they contain have no inherent value, irrespective of how rare they may be.

Currently, in the UK, if items can also be found and unlocked by gamers through playing the game, then loot boxes are not thought to be gambling, but countries like Belgium have banned these paid for “Surprise Mechanics’ and the controversy and debate surrounding them looks set to continue for awhile to come.