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Loot boxes, uh a hot-button term, one that divides the gaming community in a number of ways.
If you’re a gamer then you are probably aware of the dismal release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 and the subsequent blowout back in November 2017.
Hell, you’ve probably heard about it even if you aren’t a gamer. This blowout sent ripples through the gaming industry and eventually garnered the attention of mainstream network journalists, state representatives and government officials.
Let’s start at the beginning though:
Star Wars Battlefront 2 was released in November 2017.
However, when the game was in testing, players who were fortunate enough to be involved discovered that the game had a massive flaw.
A malicious system was implemented that would require players to spend thousands of hours grinding in order to obtain enough in-game currency to purchase characters integral to the Star Wars universe or power-ups, all the while violently nudging players into spending real-world money on loot boxes.
With no drop rate specified for items, players could spend hundreds of dollars on power-ups. Essentially, a pay-to-win system.
The backlash that followed led to the infamous most downvoted comment in Reddit history where EA tried to sell the idea that they wanted players to feel pride and accomplishment when a character was finally obtained after hours of grinding… or just skipped the grind and spent the cash.
A very weak defence.
EA had to remove microtransactions completely from the game when Disney got wind of what was happening and personally called EA.
Even with microtransactions removed from the game players would still be grinding over 3000 hours of playtime in order to unlock characters.
It was then brought to light that was no customizable skins within the loot boxes. EA then went on a tangent defending a practice that has been common in games of this calibre regarding customizable skins.
After questioning EA, they replied with “they couldn’t do customizable skins because they didn’t want to mess with the star wars cannon.” And making fun of the possibility of pink Darth Vader.
Data miners, in response to this statement, found that within the battlefront 2 system there was, in fact, an option for customizable skins, EA just hadn’t unlocked them yet and was probably saving it for a future update.
More gamers retaliated against EA by showcasing a pink and white version of Darth Vader in game.
Taking the above into account and the fact that Disney had to get involved, you can imagine that EA garnered some well-deserved attention in the public eye. The debate over whether Lootboxes were gambling had now filtered into the public domain and a Hawaii State official, Chris Lee, got the ball rolling on writing up new bills regarding Loot boxes.
Slowly, more countries have gotten involved in the investigation regarding whether loot boxes are gambling or not, from Scandinavia, Germany and Great Britain.
Belgium and the Netherlands have already ruled that EA’s FIFA Ultimate Team is equivalent to gambling and in violation of their laws.
According to an article by Jeff Grubb on Venture Beat, EA is still pushing forward with loot boxes, regardless of what other countries are saying or doing.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson had this to say at an industry conference call with analysts:
“We’re going to continue pushing forward [with FIFA Ultimate Team “We’re always thinking about our players. We’re always thinking about how to deliver these types of experiences in a transparent, fun, fair, and balanced way for our players and we’ll continue to work with regulators on that.”
In the article, it is revealed that EA made $1.25 billion dollars in revenue during its last quarter and this is without releasing a new AAA game.
“We’re working with all of the industry associations globally and with regulators in certain regions and territories,” said Wilson. “Many of [the regulators] we’ve been working with for a long time, and they have evaluated and established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling.”
It’s obvious why Andrew Wilson would state this as already confirming the ridiculous amount of money made from microtransactions in the last quarter, he would have no choice to but to defend EA’s Holy Grail of money making.
This is the source of all EA’s major income and would be hard-pressed to make money from the gaming industry legitimately.
My other thought is that EA will not name it’s regulators at all. They are faceless corporate who won’t come into the limelight, likely because it would severely hamper their reputation.
But, personally, I would welcome these “regulators” because I would love to hear their side of the argument.
Andrew Wilson also explained why he felt that loot boxes do not constitute as gambling.
“First, players always receive a specified number of items in every FUT pack,” the executive explained. “Second, we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out digital items or virtual currency for real-world money. And there’s no real-world value assigned to in-game items.”
It’s important to note that even though EA doesn’t provide a way to cash-out in-game items, that doesn’t change the fact that these items are being sold on third party websites and it won’t stop potential sellers and gamblers from exploiting that system.
This means that loot boxes in this instance are actually gambling.
After a quick Google search,I found two websites that allow you to sell your Fifa coins and characters. There is more of a risk involved in this practice besides the main “are loot boxes gambling?” element and it’s a very slippery slope for EA and players wishing to exploit the system.
I’m specifically referencing players who farm coins and then sell them on the black market.
I feel that the blame should be put on EA; whether they’re at fault for having a shitty monetization practice in the first place or for failing to actually prevent players from selling accounts.
EA is the company that has given players, charlatans and gamblers an opportunity to exploit other players and the system itself and as long as it is not kept in check, EA will continue to make gallons of money while sharks pick off pennies on the sides.
Take all of what I have just said out of the equation and you are still left with the psychological implications of loot boxes; a system that is designed to look, sound and feel like a casino slot machine.
It preys on every person’s gambling tendencies. While some players are able to resist the temptation, myself included, it does not change the fact that there is serious harm that can be done and has been done to players who have been abused by this system.
It is taking advantage of players with problems and children. Children don’t even have to play the game, they can just watch someone else play, case in point those loot-box videos that you find on YouTube.
You really think that is not going to have some affect on a kids mind regardless if they are playing the game or not.
It’s all psychological.
I’m calling you out Andrew Wilson, your company is a corporate shark, preying on players, causing real-world problems. EA is a plague on the gaming industry and you should be held accountable.
The gaming community needs a publisher it can trust and you, EA, are not one of them.
So why does EA condone loot boxes?
Because it made them a billion dollars last quarter regardless of the Battlefront 2 backlash.
If you’d like to stop these practices from happening then vote with your wallet. Stop giving into microtransactions and stop buying games with an abundance of loot boxes. This is the only way EA and other like-minded publishers will learn.
What do you guys think of loot boxes? Is it gambling or not? Should EA be held accountable? Leave a comment down below and let’s start a discussion.
Until then, be good to each other.