EA opened a can of worms with the inclusion of loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II, with each country discussing whether or not the practice is a form of gambling. Challenging the accusations, EA chief executive Andrew Wilson has revealed that the company will continue to implement loot boxes into future titles, however it will better work with regulators to ensure that it adheres to guidelines moving forward.
“As you might imagine, we're working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, many of whom we've been working with for some time and have evaluated and established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling,” Wilson described in an earnings call, transcribed by Seeking Alpha. “And we don't believe that FIFA Ultimate Team – all loot boxes are gambling.”
Wilson’s statement that “all loot boxes are gambling” is likely a reiteration that both EA and regulators have determined that no type of loot boxes they have discussed pertain to gambling, provided they cannot be redeemed for real currency in any illicit secondary market.
Unfortunately for EA, it isn’t always up to the publisher to determine what is and isn’t gambling. The Netherlands Gaming Authority released the results of a study that found that four out of ten loot boxes did violate gambling laws.
The Belgium Gaming Commission outright highlighted FIFA 18 as a culprit of breaching gambling laws thanks to its directly purchasable loot boxes. Ironically, the investigation took place after Star Wars: Battlefront II had its microtransactions removed, meaning it was deemed compliant.
Despite this, EA is set to “push forward” with the controversial practice, attempting to reassure players that it is “always thinking” about them rather than the boatload of money the system is known to rake in.
“We're always thinking about how to deliver these types of experiences in a transparent, fun, fair, and balanced way for our players,” Wilson said. “And we'll communicate with regulators around the world on it.”
KitGuru Says: Given the profit margins reported from loot boxes alone, it’s no wonder that EA would fight to keep the practice alive. The company will be walking on eggshells for a while as it attempts to earn customer trust once again, as well as prove to regulators that it isn’t going to indulge in the same exploitative pitfalls. What do you think about EA’s determination to keep loot boxes alive?