Electronic Arts is in a bit of a bind. The game publisher is having it’s major source of income, loot boxes, which makes up possibly 1/3 of their total annual revenue by some analysis account, come under fire as being what is essentially gambling for children. Ever since the gigantic outrage caused by the Star Wars Battlefront 2 situation, where […]
Electronic Arts is in a bit of a bind. The game publisher is having it’s major source of income, loot boxes, which makes up possibly 1/3 of their total annual revenue by some analysis account, come under fire as being what is essentially gambling for children. Ever since the gigantic outrage caused by the Star Wars Battlefront 2 situation, where their system was so blatantly pay-to-win the internet itself practically imploded, the legality of loot boxes have come into question. The Netherlands and Belgium have banned the practice outright, the United States has introduced a bill to ban them as well. While all of that is public information, a recent update this week has pretty much everybody saying “What?” and “Wow, that’s gross.”
During the UK parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee oral evidence hearing, they held a meeting the other day to discuss the loot box system and it’s ethics. Also there to testify was EA’s Kerry Hopkins, VP of legal and government affairs, who assured the committee that these loot boxes weren’t child gambling, they were “surprise mechanics” similar to “Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise.” Despite that being such a gross misrepresentation of what loot boxes actually are, she might as well have been calling them unexpected features and have the same effect, she went on to say that “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.”
Obvious terrible comparisons aside, this is the most transparent attempt at spin I think I’ve seen in public media for a long time, because that absolute crap. Calling them surprise mechanics doesn’t change the fact that these things are absolutely baby’s first slot machine shoved in the faces of people too young to know any better. FIFA is probably the worst offender since the game is designed to be competitive, spending money in the game gives you a actual leg up on the competition. Estimates say that it wold cost more that $6,000 to get the best team in it’s most recent release, and since the game is rated E, kids are seeing this pay to win mechanic and think that’s how you have to win.
So why is EA saying something so transparently full of absolute nonsense? Why play coy when you know they know just what these things are, other than a way of squeezing every little bit out of the consumer, regardless of age? Well, like most great salesmen, the reason is because EA knows exactly who it’s audience is. It’s not people like me, an avid gamer and person generally hip to pop culture (Let me have this). No, it’s for the UK committee who doesn’t seem to know much about any of this video gaming stuff. These people are pretty out of touch when it comes to these magical things called Video Games. During the hearing, they actually asked if they could “disable text messages in Fortnight” and were very confused when they were told you cannot disable text messages with a video games.
So obviously, they aren’t really in the know about how all of these mechanics work, and EA is using that to their advantage. Hiding behind diplomatic language like “surprise mechanics” makes them seem like they’re trying to give kids a fun new toy that everywhere else has, only they like our better, rather than the glorified slot machine it actually is. Pointing to gambling definition rulings that are practically obsolete in their interpretation as to what gambling actually is, EA is using every trick in the book to make it seem like its all harmless fun. Only there’s a problem with their logic. It’s not all harmless fun.
People’s lives have been destroyed by gambling addiction, and those are adults who know better. Putting these things in front of kids, who have no idea that these have real, actual consequences and using that ignorance to get some more money out of people. See, that’s the biggest “Ew, gross” moment out of all of this. It’s not them trying to make this sound as non-threatening as possible, no that I get. They have money to make, and loot boxes are where more that $800 million dollars are to be made. No the gross part is the fact that they’re taking it from literal children and acting like it’s all harmless fun.
EA has found a new market to sell loot boxes to, and unfortunately it’s the people with the power to make illegal?
Posted by Austin Hamblen, Owner and Main writer of Endlessmonkey.com