Wednesday, May 09, 2018

EA CEO Supports Current Loot Box System with Company

It shouldn't come as a surprise that EA is pushing back against the loot box volatility, by proclaiming that they are not a form of gambling. This is according to CEO Andrew Wilson during a quarterly investment call. The focus was specifically on FIFA after a Belgium commission ruled that the game did contain loot boxes that were similar to gambling.

Wilson spoke to investors about how the FIFA game boxes were not gambling: "Firstly, players always receive a specified number of items in each FUT pack, and secondly we don't provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money."

Wilson seems to have missed what the argument has been since the release of The Lord of the Rings: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II. The "gambling" portion of the loot boxes is that the player never knows what they are going to receive. There are no statistics provided on what a person will get if they buy a box. The developer may say "well you're getting 4 items" that's fine. What's the percentage that it's a skin, or a weapon, or a rare card? It may take 1 box or 500 boxes for a gamer to get the item they really want. They can either farm for hundreds of hours to get the boxes, or pay for them with cash and enjoy the excitement of opening each box.

Secondly, when a game forces loot boxes on the gamer to act as the stop-gap between advancing in the game, that's a gambling issue too. It's like a dealer at a poker table saying "Hey. If you want to play you gotta drop $10, but if you want to be the coolest one here, drop $50 and you can hold these 3 spots and play more." The original loot box system for Battlefront II required players to spend in-game currency to advance. Loot boxes provided star cards, items for crafting, and rare weapons that were needed to progress. A gamer who drops money on the in-game currency to buy loot boxes would always have an advantage over the gamers who grind the traditional way. This is a gambling addiction in the making. When loot boxes are designed to alter the way one plays a game, people are going to spend real world money to get what they need.

EA is still riding on their successes as their earnings for the quarter beat estimates for $1.26 billion. But like it or not, the loot box issue is not going to go away. The company will have to find a balance between the laws and their revenue if they want to continue issuing them. I still argue that Overwatch system is probably one of the better ones since it's purely cosmetic and has no affect on your ability to play the game. Would percentages on the chance of receiving gold items be nice to see? Sure. But gamers don't have to worry about whether or not someone is overpowered by spending more real-world money in order to win a game.

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