Dutch justice condemns EA to pay a heavy fine
Netherlands Gaming Authority has called into question the “loot box” system, which is present in the various FIFA games of the Canadian editor. EA will have to pay a fine of €500,000 per week, and up to a maximum of €10 million.
Loot boxes, a controversial system
In the video game industry, a loot box contains virtual objects whose content is not known in advance. To open these boxes, you have to pay a virtual or real amount of money. The boxes (named “packs” in FIFA) are an essential part of the game mode “Ultimate Team”, in which you can create your dream team by buying players on a virtual marketplace, with virtual money. Obviously, the most famous and popular players are the most expensive and hardest to obtain. The temptation to spend real money on these loot boxes to have a team that can compete with the best is always stronger, and many end up by giving in and buying.
Justice considered that this system is similar to gambling, which must be regulated by the Netherlands Gaming Authority. This is clearly not the case, and the Canadian firm enjoys more advantageous regulations, which explains the fine.
An ethical problem :
FIFA is the most popular football simulation video game, and many children play it, a population that can be influenced. The kids can easily take their parents’ credit card and spend a huge amount of money. Money has an increasing place in FIFA, and it is getting harder and harder to be successful in the game without spending money. EA sports has entered into a « pay to win » logic, even though players already pay for a new FIFA game every year.
It becomes necessary to establish a boundary with money games (gambling). However, the video game market continues to grow and publishers are constantly looking for ways to generate more money. In this frantic race for profit, is EA really going to review its business plan to meet these new ethical challenges ? Nothing is less sure.