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EA’s battle to keep loot boxes as a legal form of definitely-not-gambling within their child-targeted products is providing us with plenty of laughs. As part of a DCMS inquiry at the UK’s House of Commons, the publisher attempted to rebrand the notion of a loot box into a “surprise mechanic”.
The inquiry focused on the “ethical and practical concerns” that loot box mechanics have on players. With products like Battlefront 2 and FIFA’s Ultimate Team being at the forefront of the mechanic’s controversy, EA’s will to keep the system’s legality in check is bringing in some rather colourful language.
During the committee, EA’s VP of legal and governmental affairs, Kerry Hopkins, said that loot boxes were “surprise mechanics”, likening the system to the mystery gift chocolate snack Kinder Eggs.
“[the mechanics have been around] for years, whether it’s Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise,” Hopkins said. “We do think that the way 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”.
Hopkins goes on to state that she does not believe that these mechanics are a danger to players, instead agreeing with the UK and Australian gambling commission that loot boxes are removed from gambling.
“We do agree with the UK gambling commission, the Australian gambling commission, and many others 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.”
With countries like Belgium already banning this form of “surprise mechanics” due to their link to gambling, it isn’t impossible to see the UK worry about the same problem.
With features like Ultimate Team planning their return for the publisher’s upcoming FIFA 20, EA is understandably worried about the government’s decision on the matter.