EA comes under fire once again over Fifa loot boxes

EA comes under fire once again over Fifa loot boxes

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Loot boxes have been coming under fire for their potential to cause harm as the government called for evidence into the in-game mechanisms, and a new report conducted by the University of Plymouth and the University of Wolverhampton has shown the mechanisms have significant links to gambling, citing their “structural and psychological likeness.”

The criticism of loot boxes has particularly affected EA, specifically their Ultimate Team packages in the FIFA series. EA has faced a lawsuit in California for these in-game packages, while moves to ban loot boxes altogether have been seen in Brazil and Germany.

Now, EA is back in the limelight as a leaked internal document seems to prove the company is trying to drive players into this controversial gameplay.

The leaked document is 54-pages long, and comes from the company’s sports division in Burnaby, where a team works on EA’s hugely profitable FIFA games. The document appears to be a presentation about the upcoming release of FIFA 21.

While the loot boxes, which allow players to potentially improve play or chances of winning by adding better players to their team are not new, the backlash is coming over a bullet point in the document. 

The bullet point close to the top of the document says the mode which allows for loot box purchases, called FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), is the “cornerstone” of the game, and that “We are doing everything we can to drive players there.”

On another page of the document, there is reference to “content teasers that will drive excitement & funnel players towards the FUT” under a bullet point titled “All roads lead to FUT.”

While loot boxes are not currently regulated in the UK, the upcoming Gambling Act review may change this, and the charity GambleAware have called for new policies to be put in place to protect players. These would include clear definitions on what loot box mechanisms are, enforced age ratings on the products, disclosure of the odds prior to purchasing the loot boxes, spend limits, and prices displayed in real currency as opposed to in-game currency to improve transparency. 

In an interview with Online Bingo, Dr David Zendle outlined some of the ways in which regulation may come in, and the timeframe we could expect to see it in, if the government decides that there is significant enough evidence on the potential for harm found in loot boxes. If this regulation were to come into force, EA could expect to see their Ultimate Teams packages taken off the market, or hidden behind age-ratings.

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