In recent years, controversy surrounding heavy-handed loot box mechanics in games seems to have hit a fever pitch. Electronic Arts sparked this outcry when its loot boxes in 2017’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 took things a step too far, and ever since then, a number of governments around the world have been taking a closer look at loot boxes to figure out if they’re a form of gambling.
Loot boxes are a pretty common sight in Electronic Arts games these days, so naturally, the company doesn’t consider them to be anywhere near gambling on the spectrum of problematic game mechanics. EA has already argued this point of view multiple times in the past, but its most recent defense of loot boxes definitely leaves us scratching our heads.
As PCGamesN reports, representatives from the company went before the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee yesterday to argue the case for loot boxes in front of legislators, who have launched a fairly broad investigation into gaming. At one point during the two-and-a-half hour session, EA VP of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins compared loot boxes in games to products like Kinder Eggs or Hatchimals, referring to them as “surprise mechanics.”
Hopkins went on to argue that the way EA implements these so-called surprise mechanics in its games – namely FIFA, which seems to make a decent chunk of change from Ultimate Team packs – “is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.” Hopkins also reiterated that EA agrees with agencies like the UK and Australia gambling commissions, which have determined that loot boxes aren’t a form of gambling.
Whether or not loot boxes are an ethical way for publishers to make money is largely what’s up for debate here, but it’s pretty bold of Hopkins to claim that they’re “enjoyable” for consumers given the immensely negative reaction to Battlefront 2. I’ve personally never met anyone who enjoys loot box mechanics in games, but EA claims those masochistic folks are out there somewhere. In any case, if you’d like to watch the full session, you can do so over on the UK Parliament’s website.