EA Ends Loot Boxes, Rebrand Them As “Surprise Mechanics”
Loot boxes used to be the hot topic in the video game community until backlash over particularly bad ones in games like Star Wars: Battlefront II turned the tide against them.
Now just a few games (outside of mobile) use loot boxes as revenue streams. There are still loot boxes in Overwatch, Call of Duty, FIFA, Destiny 2, Apex Legends and plenty of others, but the implementation of loot boxes in new games has slowed just in time for governments across the globe to get in on the action. Better late than never, you might say.
Kerry Hopkins, EA’s VP of Legal and Government affairs (and yes, apparently that’s an actual position within EA) said before a UK parliament session that loot boxes in video games are surprise mechanics that aren’t any different from Kinder eggs or from any other “Surprise!” factor product. AS Hopkins put it, lootboxes are also very fun and very ethical experiences in the way EA has implemented them: “We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics and FIFA of course is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people”. Never mind that a government-commissioned study on the matter, “Young People and Gambling 2018 Report” claiming that 450,000 UK kids, aged between 11 and 16, bet regularly.
EA's VP of legal and government affairs refuses to use the term 'lootboxes' in favor of 'surprise mechanics', compares them to Kinder Eggs, says they are not gambling and 'quite ethical'https://t.co/IbRqMwvJea pic.twitter.com/bJ8t3Fkib6
— Nibel (@Nibellion) June 19, 2019
The UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee heard evidence from EA and Epic Games representatives about various game-related issues, the legality and propriety of loot boxes and other micro-transactions in games chief among them. For the most part, the gaming reps danced around the issue as tactfully as possible, but when the EA camp was asked about loot boxes, they responded by saying they refer to loot boxes as “surprise mechanics” and comparing opening one to cracking a Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise.
You can hear all these comments in full through the archive of the Parliament broadcast, starting at 15:43:15
In response to questions from Scottish National Party MP, Brendan O’Hara, Hopkins says “We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics – and FIFA of course is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.
“We do agree with the UK gambling commission, the Australian gambling commission, and many other gambling commissions that they aren’t gambling, and we also disagree that there’s evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead we think it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and like the element of surprise.”
Obviously, that also means that EA disagrees with the anti-loot box stance taken by Dutch Gaming Authority Officially Takes Action Against Loot Boxes and EA To Stop Selling FIFA Points In Belgium Following Legal Pressure. “They decided – the regulator, not the courts – decided that under their local law, these mechanics under certain circumstances violate the law.”
The UK government’s investigation on gaming was announced earlier this year, and it concerns much more than just loot boxes and everything from game addiction to the ways the government can support the VR industry is on the list. Whether any legislative action results from these investigations remains to be seen.
We find the whole thing quite the circus of hypocrisy and greed and it would be funny, I suppose, if things like hypocrisy and greed were actually humorous and not the cornerstones of all that’s wrong and wicked in this world.