EA is undoubtedly at the heart of the ongoing loot box row, but the publisher is pleading innocence when it comes to intervention. Speaking with politicians in the UK this week, the publisher’s VP of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins likened loot boxes to blind-packed toys, and explained that internally the organisation refers to them as “surprise mechanics”.
“[People] enjoy surprises,” she said. “And so, it’s something that’s been part of toys for years, whether it’s Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise. We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics in FIFA – [which] of course is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun. Enjoyable to people.”
There’s no doubt that people do have fun collecting cards and building teams in FIFA Ultimate Team, but is it ethical or exploitative? “We disagree that there’s evidence that shows it leads to gambling,” she continued, reiterating that the firm is against the recent regulations installed in Belgium and the Netherlands, where it’s had to alter its titles due to laws which have effectively banned the sale of loot boxes entirely.
Politicians did point to the existence of third-party websites, where in-game items are sold for real-world money – against the terms and conditions of the titles in question, of course. But Hopkins merely suggested that “bad guys” are to blame for these kind of services, not the systems and games in question.
Hopkins concluded by rubbishing claims that gambling and loot boxes are intrinsically linked. “I don’t think we can agree to say that games are addictive,” she said. “I would tell you that Electronic Arts already is a very responsible company.” That may be the case, but with US senators now sniffing, this story looks set to rumble on and on.