EA faces a lawsuit in response to Ultimate Team ‘Loot Boxes’

  • Updated
  • By Hannah Timoney
EA Lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit has been filed in the Northern District of California against EA, citing violations against the California gambling act. This lawsuit is in response to the video game publisher’s Ultimate Team packages in its annual FIFA series, which have been compared to other gambling mechanics illegal in the state of California.

The plaintiff, Kevin Ramirez, represents more than 100 individuals, and cites Californian law as proof that games such as FIFA and Madden should be governed under these regulations as they include random loot boxes as a monetisation feature. Under Californian case law the definition of an illegal gambling device consists of a device, something of value is exchanged in order to play (money), and the player receives something of value by element of chance. 

The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and damages to the value of $5 million. Unlike the UK, in the USA most gambling is illegal, and gambling that is legal is heavily regulated. The state of California currently permits card games, tribal casinos, a state-run lottery, bingo, and horse race wagering, however land-based and online casino sites are not legal.

Ramirez claims that EA’s ‘Ultimate Team’ packs are loot boxes, which he says are “nothing more than a gambling bet,” and therefore is contrary to Carlifornia law.  The case brought to trial states that “EA relies on creating addictive behaviours in consumers to generate huge revenue,” and that the packs are “predatory and designed to entice gamers to gamble.” However, there is currently no consensus in the US as to whether loot boxes constitute gambling. 

The UK government recently called for evidence that loot boxes should be classified as gambling. This follows Belgium blocking games such as FIFA from including loot box mechanics, classing them as part of the gambling industry. Companies such as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are also planning to introduce new policies that require games made for the consoles to disclose the odds attributed to loot boxes. 

As loot boxes become increasingly common, along with ‘in-store purchases,’ adults and even children are more exposed to gambling than ever before, and to its potential dangers. Enforcing harsher restrictions on these loopholes in the gambling industry will protect from these predatory practices and dissuade companies from exploiting these technicalities and loopholes.