After the Belgium Gaming Commission ruled loot boxes were gambling in August, EA refuses to remove them from FIFA18, challenging the decision. The news story comes from Belgian publication Nieuwsblad, who are reporting that EA will challenge the decision in court. While Blizzard, Valve and 2K Games have complied, EA has also refused to remove lootboxes from the upcoming FIFA19. They refuse to budge, believing the classification is unjustified and could result in a EU wide ban.
The Belgium Gaming Commission made their ruling on lootboxes in August due to the comparisons made between lootboxes and gambling. With aesthetic similarities to a slot machine, no knowledge of what items players will receive, and rare drops determining happiness, the Commission determined that lootboxes were a form of gambling. While gambling is not illegal, lootboxes are marketed towards and available to children under 18. A study from the University of Hamburg linked these practices with the malicious psychological tactics used in gambling to cause addiction. Dr Colin O’Gara, consultant psychiatrist at St John of God Hospital in Dublin, states that the surge of dopamine that comes with the anticipation of good loot makes spending money on lootboxes have the same addicting qualities as something like a slot machine.
Peter Naessens of the Commission states “players lose thousands of euros. We responded to complaints from parents, but also from the gaming community itself. ”
However, EA see things differently. Unlike a slot machine or roulette table, lootboxes have a guaranteed return. While rare items are linked to addiction, there is still a guarantee of common items. It is not an all or nothing system like traditional gambling, falling in a grey area. They are determined to keep lootboxes as an integrated and accepted part of modern gaming. According to Nieuwsblad, 67% of EA’s 3 billion euro revenue is from online sales. Furthermore, Activision-Blizzard reported record breaking financials earlier this year, largely due to lootboxes. The financial benefit of lootboxes has enabled developers to have sustained revenue streams. This results in continued support for games post-launch, such as new maps, cosmetic items and game modes.
A spokesperson from the Commission state that if EA effectively challenge the gambling classification, they will instead work to revise gambling law to tackle the issue of lootboxes.