Are loot boxes gambling in Austrian law?
According to local news, an unnamed Austrian gamer is requesting that Sony pay them €85,000 ($90,599) for losses incurred buying FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) packs. The gamer contacted the law firm Salburg Rechtsanwalts GmbH asking for representation in the case against Sony following a court ruling on February 26.
In the ruling by the court in Carinthia, it was stated that the FUT packs were gambling. The argument is that since players could pay to purchase a pack, but the value of the contents was randomized, this constituted a wager.
“used to trigger dopamine release” in the players
The ruling as quoted by Games Wirtschaft also cited elements drawn from igaming such as “audiovisual enticement elements such as fireworks” that were “used to trigger dopamine release” in the players [translation by Google Translate].
Since Sony is not licensed to host gambling games, that left the company – which manufactures and sells the Playstation – liable. As a result, Sony was ordered to pay out €338.26 ($360.54). The court ruling does not clarify why Sony rather than EA, FIFA 2022’s publisher, has to cough up the reparations.
The gamer is one of hundreds that have contacted Salburg Rechtsanwalts following the court ruling. The average claim is just few hundred euros, making the €85k player an outlier.
FIFA Ultimate Teams in action
FIFA 2022 is a video game in which players manage and control virtual soccer teams.
FUT is a game mode in FIFA 2022 that allows players to construct their own teams by unlocking (or purchasing) FUT packs. The packs contain a selection of randomized rewards including players, managers, consumables (like temporary buffs for your team), and cosmetics like club and stadium customization.
While more expensive packs will have better chances of containing top quality items, the specific content is subject to chance.
In the world of video games, this sort of product is known as a “loot box.” The practice of selling loot boxes is under scrutiny in several markets at the moment, and rulings like this one set key precedents that other states will pay attention to.
Sony is appealing the judgement and seems set to fight Salburg Rechtsanwalts’s follow up cases. So, whether or not our mystery gamer will get his €85,000 back will depend on whether Sony can make a convincing defense in the court of appeals.