Just like IAPs or in-app transactions, loot boxes have become one of the “dirty words” in the gaming industry. Unlike other forms of microtransactions, however, loot boxes have also come under legal scrutiny. Companies like EA have even been fined over such widespread yet also unpopular game mechanic, but it hasn’t stopped EA from pushing through with that line of business. In fact, a new leak reveals that EA was intentionally trying to steer FIFA 21 players that way, which, on second thought, might not be that surprising after all.
FIFA 21’s implementation of loot boxes comes in the form of card packs that give randomized rewards in the game’s FIFA Ultimate Team mode or FUT. These packs can be acquired using FIFA Points which themselves can be bought with real money. That kind of microtransaction isn’t exactly new nor illegal but it is the element of randomness in these loot boxes that is ruffling regulators and even some players’ feathers.
According to a leaked document from an anonymous EA Insider, this aspect of FUT isn’t just a sort of side game. In fact, it is supposed to be the cornerstone of FIFA 21 and that the company should do everything to drive players towards it. That EA would want more revenue from such features should hardly be shocking but leading players in that direction, both intentionally and subtly, doesn’t sit well with many of the company’s critics.
The problem is how loot boxes are seen as a form of gambling by some regulators and lawmakers. EA, of course, disagrees and cites how some of those have also refused to label loot boxes as such because of one critical element. While there is indeed randomness in what you’re getting, there is actually no cashout from it, which, for some countries, is the definition of gambling.
EA’s official response to the leak also denies “pushing spending over earning”. While it does say how important FIFA Ultimate Team has been to the franchise over the decades, it argues that the majority of FIFA players actually never spend money on microtransactions anyway.