EA Introduces Spending Limits for FIFA 21 Loot Boxes

  • Spending limits are the latest step in EA’s Positive Play Charter
  • The regulatory debate over FUT packs stems back to 2018, with many linking them to gambling
  • EA vehemently denies any links to gambling, a stance supported by the UKGC
  • FUT packs have been the subject of a number of legal battles so far this year across the globe
Two teenagers playing FIFA soccer video game
Games developer EA has introduced a number of new measures to FIFA 21, aiming to better protect players, including spending limits for FUT packs. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

New protections in place

Video game company Electronic Arts (EA) has introduced a string of new measures into its new soccer game FIFA 21 with the aim of better protecting players. FIFA Playtime allows players or their parents to set limits on the amount of money they spend on in-game purchases, such as FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) packs.

According to a company statement, FIFA Playtime is the latest step in its Positive Play Charter, which aims to make “play more positive”. EA first launched the initiative in June, announcing a list of guidelines through which it aims to make its services more safe, balanced, and fair.

EA has consistently denied any similarities between loot boxes and gambling

With the new measures, EA is hoping to silence criticism of the availability of in-game purchases within FIFA. Known more generally as loot boxes, the chance-based mechanics of FUT packs have caused various regulatory bodies to liken them to gambling. In contrast, EA has consistently denied any similarities.

The debate over FUT packs

In Europe, the regulatory debate over FUT packs stems back to 2018, when the Dutch Gambling Authority (DGA) and Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) called for loot boxes to be removed from FIFA and other games. After an investigation into a number of games, the regulatory bodies concluded that the chance packs violated gaming laws and exposed underage persons to gambling behavior.

In a report from The Sun, EA CEO Andrew Wilson countered this claim. He argued that, unlike gambling, players will always receive a specified number of items in each acquired pack and are unable to sell the packs for financial gain. This is a stance supported by the UK Gambling Commission, which last year said it did not consider loot boxes to be gambling.

EA’s troubles have persisted in the Netherlands. In October 2019, the games developer received €10m ($11.6m) worth of fines from the state’s current regulatory body, Kansspelautorteit (KSA). The KSA argued that EA had violated the Betting and Gaming Act by selling loot boxes in the country. A Netherlands District Court recently ruled in favor of the decision. Reports suggest EA is appealing that ruling.

Further loot box legal challenges

Throughout 2020, EA has faced a string of legal battles regarding the inclusion of loot boxes in its games.

Two Parisian lawyers filed a lawsuit against EA in February. The lawyers said the games developer had created an “illusionary and particularly addictive system” through which players were required to pay more money to acquire the best players. Victor Zagury and Karim Morand-Lahouazi also criticized the lack of protection provided for the game’s predominantly young player base.

creating addictive behaviors in consumers”

In August, Kevin Ramirez, a plaintiff representing more than 100 people, filed a class-action lawsuit against EA in the Northern District of California. Ramirez claimed the games developer owed $5m worth of damages because of the random-chance schematics of Ultimate Team pack transactions in FIFA and Madden. The lawsuit claimed EA had transgressed state gambling laws due to its reliance on “creating addictive behaviors in consumers.”