EA continues to implement their infamous ‘lootbox’ mechanics into their famous football franchise whilst the rest of the industry is slowly turning their back on micro-transactions.
By Owen Tyrie
EA Sport’s recent release in their successful catalogue of sporting simulation games, FIFA 20, has gained a lot of attention for its implementation of ‘lootboxes’ which has garnered a lot of backlash from fans.
‘Lootboxes’ – sometimes nicknamed “paedo-caches” due to their predatory nature – are purchased from an in-game store which asks the player to purchase special coins which cost real money. In turn, you can buy packs that will give you the chance to receive something worthwhile. Once you have paid for the special coins, you cannot re-aquire that money or sell the coins on to other people.
In FIFA 20, this system is seen as ‘pay to win’, something which the mobile industry has been doing for years, but with free games as opposed to games that cost £50. This system allows people who don’t pay to have a fun and worthwhile experience with the game, but they are ultimately at a disadvantage against a player who is willing to spend money on the in-game purchases.
This is not the first time EA has been in trouble with micro-transactions, as the company has consistently been recognised as one of the most hated companies in the gaming industry for their business practices and they way they monetise their games.
Just over the summer, the company was under fire from fans after a spokesperson stated that their ‘lootbox’ system is “quite ethical” and that they are not actually ‘lootboxes’ but are simply “surprise mechanics”, akin to that of “Kinder eggs.”
Back in 2017, their release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 had players boycotting the game due to the ridiculous levelling system which asked players to either play for over 4000 hours (166 days!) or pay a sum of about £800 to unlock all the content.
“‘Lootboxes’ are particularly advantageous to game companies”
Dr Alexandra Kenyon, a research leader at Leeds Beckett and expert in the field of gambling addiction, believed that the ‘lootboxes’ are just the same as gambling.
“In the same way you never know if you’re going to win at a card table in a casino, you can never know if you will get something worthwhile from these lootboxes. ‘Lootboxes’ are particularly advantageous to game companies as they can make a lot of money very fast.”
“While it may seem harmless, it is in fact quite damaging to young people who are playing the game and needs to be regulated better.”
“One gamer disclosed spending of up to £1000 a year.”
Over the past two years, in-game micro-transactions have been the cause of debate among gamers, the industry and now even Parliament.
A report on immersive and addictive technology was published in September which set out a “call to regulate video game ‘lootboxes’ under gambling law and ban their sale to children among other measures needed to protect players.”
In the report, a statement was made by DCMS Committee Chair Damian Collins MP who said: “Buying a ‘lootbox’ is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up.”
The statement actually uses the FIFA series as an example of poor regulation of micro transactions, by stating: “Evidence from gamers highlighted the ‘lootbox’ mechanics in Electronic Art’s FIFA series with one gamer disclosing spending of up to £1000 a year.”
The future of micro-transactions in the gaming industry is very unclear, as many companies like EA are continually releasing more and more types of ‘lootboxes’ to bait the player into spending money. On the other hand, some companies, such as Psyonix, are getting rid of all ‘lootboxes’ to replace them with a system that tells the player exactly what they will get if they decide to spend money on the game.
But it seems that for now, young players remain vulnerable until government action is taken.