Even though the majority would admit loot boxes are not the noblest invention to date, a senior executive of EA games begs to disagree with the general opinion.
Kerry Hopkins, the vice president of legal and government affairs at the Electronic Arts, presented the United Kingdom’s Parliament with a unique understanding of loot boxes. Frequently, according to Hopkins, loot boxes, aside from being fairly ethical, represent a great deal of joy to players.
If you are still wary of accepting this point of view, maybe a comparison to throwaway toys will help spread your mind. Hopkins proceeded to enlight the Committee by asserting that loot boxes are no different than a Kinder Surprise egg.
However, what sets apart loot boxes from throwaway toys, is the sole ethnicity of the product. While the first offers you a full commodity for a specific price, the second requires its buyers to make indefinite purchases. Additionally, each purchase is made blindfolded. The buyer not only hopes to receive a valuable reward but progresses to use loot boxes even though knowing about the low odds.
Sounds similar? Of course, it does. The same principles are being used in gambling. Both are addictive, and both grant small rewards to users, fulfilling them a sense of joy, and consequently tempting them to try once more. Moreover, unlike gambling, loot boxes require a previously made purchase of the product. As Hopkins said, people like surprises, but at what cost are they delivered to them?
Gradually, loot boxes are becoming synonymous with gambling, and EA games are making sure to set themselves apart from such claims. So, they have made sure to rebrand the loot box, labeling it now as “surprise mechanics.”. The most popular place for surprise mechanics to be implemented is the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT). When questioned about it, Hopkins has stated that people enjoy it in a healthy way, and like the element of wonder.
“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”
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EA games already maintain an infamous history with their Loot boxes, microtransactions, and pay-to-win mechanisms, the most well-known being that in Star Wars: Battlefront 2. In Battlefront 2, players were forced to make in-game purchases if they were to make the most of the game.
Ever since, numerous countries have begun addressing this problem, most notably Belgium and the Netherlands. Loot boxes are deemed to lead to gambling and companies like EA, Valve and Blizzard were required to adjust to their regional regulations. In Asia, South Korea, China, and Japan are considering to apply the same rules.
What is FIFA FUT?
In FIFA Ultimate Team, users assemble their dream rosters, acquiring new players by virtual purchases or packs that contain random players. Athletes available for acquisition are sorted by their stats, with those with higher numbers being harder to get. FIFA coins are the virtual currency needed if you are to purchase players without using real money. Considering that you will receive about 600 coins per game, it takes considerable time to collect funds for iconic players. For example, It would take you around 300 000 coins if you are to buy Sergio Aguero.
Even though FUT users are not straight-forward required to purchase these packs, the whole environment sets for them to be an inevitable part of the game. Players who pump-in large amounts of money into the game, end up getting a better opportunity at finding the rare cards. Essentially, FIFA FUT acts just like the real market, with wealthier clubs having an advantage over the poorer ones. It might sound appealing, but keep in mind that you have already paid for the game in the first place. If you are to enjoy the best option FIFA has to offer, EA makes sure you are tempted to try out loot boxes.
What makes loot boxes debatable, is the fact that they are not imposed on the players. While this is completely accurate, we’re well aware that it’s more complicated than that. While gambling is age restricted, users who purchase FIFA points might be underaged. Younger audiences make an obvious target, as they are easier to persuade into spending real money. Quite contrary to the mentioned ethics EA implements on its loot boxes.
What are the loot boxes?
A loot box is a virtual item, which requires its users to spend real or in-game currency to receive a randomized item. Depending on the game, loot boxes can grant players cosmetic items, which have no significance to the gameplay or the so-called pay to win items. Some games grant loot boxes, with the addition of keys, who are required to unlock them later on.
They are popular amongst free-to-play games and mobile games but are common in full-priced titles. Valve, Blizzard and EA games are some of the prime examples of how loot boxes work.
Loot boxes can be useful to refresh the game or help players acquire new items. However, they are mostly used to manipulate their consumer base into spending more money, therefore being closely linked with gambling. Additionally, it is considered highly unethical towards the consumers that have already paid for the product, and are now required to perform more transactions.
In conclusion to today’s topic, I’m hoping EA’s don’t proceed to make a mockery out of our common sense, as there is a clear problem with the loot boxes. Being a FIFA enthusiast, I find it in the best interest of the community that developers start addressing these problems so we can all enjoy our user experience once again.
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