“Quite ethical…people like surprises” What now for the future of loot boxes in gaming?

I’m an avid player of EA Sport’s FIFA franchise. Much childhood nostalgia is attached to that game, and even now as a University Student I do find time to kick back and relax on this once beloved video game adaptation of the beautiful game.

In recent years however, gaming publishers like EA Sports, Activision, and Blizzard have come under scrutiny from players and the public alike for their implementation of loot box systems in their games. Games like FIFA, Overwatch, and Call of Duty offer content and cosmetic items in their games in exchange for real world currency. Due to the random nature and luck element of these systems, they have been likened to serious gambling, particularly in FIFA’s Ultimate Team game mode.

Earlier this year, anti-loot box legislation was introduced and passed in Belgium that prohibited Publishers from including these features in games designed for Belgian gamers. Although the Belgian market isn’t as prominent or enough to scare these Publishers like say the UK or USA are, increasing steps are being made that threaten the existence of these ‘ethical surprises’.

If something receives bipartisan support, that being multiple parties from across the political spectrum, in a house of legislature, this is a good sign that a bill is garnering momentum. This is the case in the US House of Representatives, where a bill supported by Democrats and Republicans has reached the floor. And only in the last few days, EA representatives were summoned and consulted by Westminster MPs about the ethical approach to loot boxes. Kerry Hopkins, the Vice President of EA games, likened them to toys from Walmart and Kinder Eggs. “Our Fifa Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun”

I’ve spent 7 years playing that Ultimate Team game mode in question. I wouldn’t exactly define fun as spending hours upon days on the game to get rewarded poorly and to minimal standards. Now just imagine spending money on top of these dozens, nay, hundreds of hours of in game time.

But, these are of course only minor steps in the change many gamers and fans seek. EA and Activision are still Juggernauts in their respective genres and industry. As for games like FIFA, the loss of loot boxes would dent revenue, but given the lack of a genuine credible opponent in the football game market (as EA Sports has a monopoly over licensing and rights not just in football, but also American football and Hockey) so as long as the loot boxes remain in the gaming world, and the major companies have such influence and control over their genre, loot boxes are here to stay and only serious monumental movements will change that any time soon.

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