As Governments around the world continue to debate whether the controversial 'Loot Box' mechanic that is used in in many modern games can lead to gambling, or if, in fact, is actually a form of gambling in itself, EA’s VP of legal and government affairs, Kerry Hopkins has insisted the mechanic is definitely not gambling and is actually, "quite ethical".
In an oral evidence session with the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, Hopkins said the mechanic is more comparable to surprise toys, which have been around “for years, whether it’s Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise”, than gambling.
EA has come under plenty of scrutiny in recent times over the use of Loot Boxes, so much so, the company reworked the entire system on Battlefront 2 after an intense public backlash. Their latest hit, FIFA Ultimate Team has seen the scrutiny increase as watchdog groups and governmental organisations begin to question if allowing young people to have access to loot boxes is ethical.
“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," Hopkins remarked during the evidence session.
He added, “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".
While the Australian Gambling Commission may deny the link, a study conducted by the Australian Parliament’s Environment and Communications References Committee, found that there potentially was a link between Loot Boxes and gambling. Lead investigators, Dr. David Zendle and Dr. Paul Cairns, hypothesized that loot boxes could act as a gateway to real gambling or they could exploit gambling disorders without regulation.
“Industry statements typically disassociate loot boxes from gambling,” a statement read. “They instead highlight similarities between loot boxes and harmless products like trading cards or Kinder Surprise eggs. … By contrast, researchers argue that loot boxes share so many formal similarities with other forms of gambling that they meet the ‘psychological criteria’ to be considered gambling themselves. These results support the position of academics who claim that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling.”
The researchers added that their findings indicated that people who spent a lot on loot boxes also spent a lot on gambling.
“This is what one would expect if loot boxes psychologically constituted a form of gambling,” said Cairns and Zendle. “It is not what one would expect if loot boxes were, instead, psychologically comparable to baseball cards”.