An EA Representative on Loot Boxes: "Quite Ethical, Quite Fun, Quite Enjoyable"

By Rebecca Smith,
Yesterday afternoon, the UK's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee met with representatives from EA and Epic Games to discuss immersive and addictive technologies. More precisely, the committee wanted to investigate microtransactions like loot boxes, and any design mechanics that are meant to draw players in over and over again, possibly leading to addiction in games like Fortnite, FIFA, and Battlefield. The result was yet another denial that lootboxes were a gambling mechanic, instead being more like "surprise mechanics" that are comparable to childrens' toys like Kinder Eggs.

Fortnite

EA's Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs, Kerry Hopkins, clarified that "we do agree with the UK gambling commission, the Australian gambling commission, and many other gambling commissions that they aren’t gambling, and we also disagree that there’s evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead, we think it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and like the element of surprise."

She clarified that EA doesn't call them lootboxes, instead referring to them as "surprise mechanics". Hopkins also claimed that their lootboxes, such as their FIFA Ultimate Team packs, are "quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people", also comparing them to toys like Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals, and LOL Surprise where the children don't know what they're getting until they open the box. However, gamers may disagree on the fun and enjoyable element of lootboxes, especially considering the outcry that led to the removal of lootboxes in Star Wars Battlefront II.

Away from lootboxes, both EA and Epic avoided the committee's attempts to define what would be a reasonable amount of playing time in their games. Both stated that it largely depends on the type of player, because there is a difference between what would be reasonable for a casual player and what would be reasonable for a pro player. However, both also believe that children should be protected from becoming addicted to games and this is why there are parental tools implemented into the majority of their multiplayer games to help parents decide the right playing environment for their children.

As a result, Epic was "quite taken aback" by claims made by Prince Harry that stated Fortnite should be banned because "it's created to addict and keep you in front of the computer for as long as possible". Epic's General Counsel Canon Pence stated that "the statements made could not be further from the truth in our designs and philosophy and multi-decade approach to developing a long-term and sustainable relationship with our audience". However, Epic has conceded that there is "more that the industry can do" to prevent players from becoming addicted to games and from overspending.

If you wish to listen to the full Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee session, you can do so right here, but you'll need to put aside over 2.5 hours of your time.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.