It’s a frightening comparison from the company that got a lot of backlash at the end of 2017 when two of their games, namely Need For Speed: Payback and Star Wars: Battlefront II had loot boxes in such a way that the games effectively were pay-to-win, as people with a ton of cash could skip the progression by opening their wallets.
Kerry Hopkins, Electronic Arts‘ vice president of legal and government affairs, was called to a hearing in front of a committee of United Kingdom’s MPs, and she had to talk about video games causing addiction. Last year, a group of scientists in New York found a strong link between loot boxes and gambling. However, Kerry said that the loot boxes are quite „ethical and fun”, comparing them to LOL Surprise, Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals. „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,” she said.
Ryan Brown, a journalist, disagrees: „When you speak to any gamer, even gamers who do buy those games and do buy into those loot boxes, none of them are happy with it. They don’t deem it as being fun, they wish it wasn’t there. You open a Kinder Egg and you expect a toy – and you get a toy. With a loot box, you’re hoping for something special. It is a lot more than just a throwaway toy. It’s something people aspire to have,” he told Radio 1 Newsbeat. He thinks loot boxes are toxic in games, and he named Electronic Arts and two of their franchises, namely FIFA and Star Wars: Battlefront, the worst offenders.
„They pretty much locked entire characters behind loot boxes, very popular characters and ones they used in their marketing,” Ryan added about Star Wars: Battlefront II. Still, the loot boxes aren’t considered gambling in the United Kingdom (but in last April, Belgium banned them, and on the Google Play Store, the loot box items’ odds have to be shown, and China requires this on all platforms since 2017). „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,” Kerry Hopkins says.
„Sometimes the odds will be something like 0.001% and it’s important people realise how attainable each item is. I don’t think there’s any need for them in the industry, there are tonnes of other, more well-received monetisation methods. Video games are capable of making enough money without loot boxes. I don’t see them as justifiable in any way,” Brown added.
Loot boxes are indeed not that welcome amongst gamers, especially if they are baked into a game’s progression.