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.
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.”