Is it the end of the road for loot boxes? With EA in serious legal trouble in Canada after gamers launched a class action lawsuit against the company, microtransactions may be on the way out.
Having already been banned in both the Netherlands and Belgium, loot boxes have been increasingly unpopular in recent years. Banning loot boxes is also being considered in the UK right now, indicating EA may need to rethink including them in its games in the near future.
Titles such as Madden and FIFA are built around selling loot boxes, which are predicted to be worth $50 billion by 2022, providing a massive amount of money for the video game industry.
“1$ deposit casinos have brought gambling to a new audience and many people believe the presence of loot boxes in video games could do the same thing in the future.”
Let’s take a look at the case against EA in Canada that could hasten the end of loot boxes.
EA accused of running an illegal gambling operation
While this is not the first time gamers have spoken out against loot boxes, it is rare for something such as a class action lawsuit to be launched against a games giant like EA.
According to Marius Adomnica, who is a leading video game lawyer, the case’s “plaintiffs are essentially claiming that EA is operating an unlicensed gambling business, in breach of the aforementioned Criminal Code and other statutes”.
The gamers, who are from Ontario and British Columbia, believe EA has broken the law as a result of not publishing the odds of winning prizes for the loot boxes that can be purchased.
In EA’s best-selling FIFA franchise, a hugely popular mode named Ultimate Team gives players the chance to spend their real money on in-game currency. This can be used to purchase ‘packs’ that offer the chance to unlock an elite player for their team. But there are no guarantees.
There has been a lot of negative press around loot boxes in recent years. Indeed, a few years ago gamers were up in arms when Star Wars Battlefront 2 was released. Microtransactions and loot boxes were a central part of the game and players said they would not be able to complete it without putting their hand in their pockets, having already forked out a sizable sum for the game.
EA eventually made changes to the game as a result of the uproar, so could the same thing happen with titles such as FIFA as a result of the class action lawsuit in Canada?
FIFA 21 is coming to next-gen consoles PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S by the end of the year, but it might be too late to make changes to the loot box system for this year’s game.
The psychology of loot boxes
Loot boxes are addictive, which is one of the main reasons they are so problematic.
Studies have found that opening a loot box can result in a dopamine hit to the brain, a feeling that many gamers might find to be addictive.
This could lead to them spending even more money on the game in order to chase that high.
Researchers from Massey University in New Zealand and the University of Tasmania in Australia said in a recent report that loot boxes have “striking similarities to real-world gambling”.
Naturally, this presents a major issue as loot boxes are commonly found in titles played by gamers who are not yet legally allowed to gamble as a result of their young age.
What happens if EA loses the lawsuit?
EA could face a hefty legal bill over the Canadian lawsuit, as well as potentially having to pay out a massive amount in damages.
While EA’s last full-year financial results showed the company recorded net cash from operating activities of $1.797 billion for the fiscal year, this would take a hit if loot boxes were banned.
Gamers would likely celebrate if loot boxes were to be taken out of their favorite titles as most players agree that they are unfair and nothing more than a cash cow for video game companies.
However, it could be a long period before there is a resolution to the Canadian class action lawsuit. Gamers should therefore not hold their breath for EA and other companies to make changes to the loot boxes in their releases.
The end of the road for loot boxes could be happening in the coming years, but they are likely to remain in games for some time to come yet.