EA Games leaks: Are games scripted to push micro transactions? Will it be classed as gambling?

Posted:: Apr 26, 2021 15:26 Category: Regulatory , Responsible Gaming , Posted by Kai

EA Sports leaked documents show the gaming giant pushes players towards the FUT game mode. Will this accelerate regulation on loot boxes?

Loot box environment

The loot box debate has been an ongoing discussion for many years. Many people are concerned over these types of micro transactions since it targets young adolescents and children all around the world, triggering gambling behaviour from a very young age. SiGMA News makes sure to use our global platform to promote and push for responsible gaming.

EA Sports cash cow

Loot boxes have become a mainstay in video games of late, with nearly every single game implementing this type of micro transaction within their game whether it is through packs (FIFA), battle passes (Call of Duty) or skins (Fortnite). EA Sports has come under scrutiny of late due to their Ultimate Team game mode which gives the players the chance to play the game, and in return, gain virtual currencies.

However, to further entice players to spend beyond the game fee, EA Sports allows users to purchase virtual currency using real money, to then buy loot boxes – making the process of acquiring a better team faster.

To put it into perspective in just how popular loot boxes are in the video game industry, EA Sports made $2.835billion from loot boxes in 2020. As you can see, it’s a major part of EA’s business and it comes as no surprise that they will do all it takes to protect their cash machine.

fifa-21-packs - SiGMA News

EA’s leaked documents

Most recently, a gaming insider claims that an internal company document proves that EA is trying to push players into a type of gameplay that will encourage players to spend more money – giving it links to gambling.

A leaked document points at point number 4 which states:

‘FUT is the cornerstone and we are doing everything we can to drive players there’

fifa lootbox leaked document1 - SiGMA News

Another part of the leaked document states that EA Sports will try to ‘funnel’ their players towards FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT):

‘All Roads Lead to FUT – Content teasers + targeted Aruba messaging will drive excitement and funnel pplayers towards FUT from other modes’

fifa lootbox leaked document - SiGMA News

The fact that the players have no control over the prizes won through these packs since its completely random makes it exactly like a number of casino games.

However, casinos and slots are subject to regulations while EA Sports are free to operate how they please. The fact that the prizes from packs are completely random, coupled with the animations and whistles when a box is opened, makes it very similar to gambling.

US National Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director, Keith Whyte, said:

Keith Whyte - SiGMA News

‘The features of a loot box are similar to a slot machine. Nothing is more attractive — and in some people, addictive — to the brain than intermittent, variable reward.’

Loot box victims

The game mode, together with EA Sports hunger to push players to spend their real money has affected many players to develop an addiction towards these packs. A user on reddit opened up on their own addiction:

‘I’m ashamed to admit but I am addicted to FUT packs. I spend £1000s on FIFA Points each year always chasing that icon or big pull and yet every time I try to cut it, to swear off points, to not spend another penny on FIFA, the next event or TOTY or promo or something comes along and I can’t resist because of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

The addiction and inability to stop spending on FIFA Points is on me but what seriously disturbs me is that throughout my having this problem, EA CONSISTENTLY claim that there is ‘no gambling’ going on here. I’ve been gaming for 2 decades and played many games with DLC/expansions/etc, even a fair few with micro transactions, yet FIFA is the only one that negatively impacts my life.’

Loot box regulations

Fortunately, many jurisdictions are stepping in to ban loot boxes. Countries like Belgium and Holland have already taken a stand against gaming companies such as EA, with Belgium banning real money purchases for virtual currency and Holland issuing a fine that could rise to €5million for its “FIFA Ultimate team packs.’

The UK and The House of Lords Gambling Committee also issued a statement in July 2020 that concluded that micro transactions and loot boxes do constitute as gambling and fall under the legislative body’s jurisdiction. However, no laws have been implemented but it should be a matter of time before something is done.

Furthermore, the Spanish regulator, Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) also launched a consultation paper regarding loot boxes to decide whether they should be subject to new regulations, classifying it under gambling products or banned outright.

In a previous article by SiGMA News on loot boxes, we also looked at the study of David Zendle, Rachel Meyer and Harriet that clearly shows a positive correlation between adolescent problem gambling and loot boxes. Meaning that, the more a player buys loot boxes the more likely the player is to develop a gambling problem.

Therefore, it is only a matter of time before certain legislations are passed in regards to loot boxes especially after these leaked documents from EA have been made public.

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