The makers of FIFA and Fortnite have been having to justify loot boxes to Parliament, claiming they’re no worse than Kinder Eggs.
The public’s rejection of Star Wars: Battlefront II’s loot box system will go down as one of the pivotal moments of the current generation of consoles, but while it slow downed the addition of loot box mechanics to other games it certainly didn’t put an end to them completely.
EA themselves receive most of their profits from FIFA Ultimate Team’s version of loot boxes and have been desperate to prove to governments around the world that they’re not gambling, even though countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have already classed them as exactly that.
This week it was the turn of the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee to hear a defence of the practice from both EA and Fortnite publisher Epic Games. And you can probably guess already what their angle was.
EA’s Kerry Hopkins, vice president of legal and government affairs (yes, that is a job title that exists at a video games company) insisted that loot boxes are ‘surprise mechanics’ and no different to toys such as Kinder Eggs or Hatchimals, which have been around, and tolerated, for years.
‘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’, said Hopkins, as reported by PCGamesN.
‘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.’
A recent UK study suggested exactly the opposite and said that loot boxes were part of a growing child gambling problem in the country.
The government meeting seems to have been inspired by Prince Harry’s comments last year that Fortnite should be banned, although his concern seemed to be addiction and it’s unclear whether he was aware of any of the other issues.
Although his comments seemed disingenuous, considering he’s mentioned enjoying video games in the past, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently classified ‘gaming disorder’ as a recognised illness – although that itself has also been criticised by video game companies.
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