Loot boxes? Please, EA prefers “ethical surprise mechanics”

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Providing testimony to the UK parliament regarding the implementation of blind loot boxes, EA has shared some rather choice words in its attempt to rebrand.

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Hey, did you know you’ve been thinking about loot boxes wrong this whole time? Nah, they’re not super predatory mechanics used to fuel an addictive loop and convince people, primarily children, to burn cash in the hopes of actually finding a good item. That’s so harsh, bro. Such as the train of thought presumably being followed by EA’s marketing division as they fed Kerry Hopkins, the VP of legal and government affairs for EA, the script for her to read out during her testimony regarding how loot boxes are totally misunderstood.

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During an oral evidence session with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee for the UK parliament, Hopkins insisted that these randomised item packages are “surprise mechanics” and have been utilised by brands for years. She cites Kinder Eggs, a small chocolaty sweet that also contains a random toy in the packaging and Hatchimals, a brand of toy that comes hidden in an egg that requires must open to see the contents. She insists that these kinds of systems have been used by companies for years now insinuating that there is nothing remarkable or unusual with the implementation of loot boxes in video games.

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When questioned on the use these mechanics in FIFA Ultimate Team, a digital collectable card game where players can earn new team members by unlocking them through loot boxes, Hopkins stated “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”. She goes further, clarifying EA’s stance on the matter by saying, ““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”.

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It’s…a hot take, to say the least. A seemingly workshopped explanation to continue using mechanics that often rely on players having to spend real money to hopefully unlock a decent item only to continue the cycle when such a drop is nowhere to be found. The discussion of loot boxes and their ethical implementation started in earnest due to EA’s controversial use of the system in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (2017) which saw many essential items necessary to effectively compete in the game locked behind randomised loot boxes. You can hear Hopkins’ full testimony here.

Last Updated: June 20, 2019

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