EA Games' vice president of marketing has defended the company's use of loot boxes, comparing them to Kinder Eggs. Kerry Hopkins was talking to UK MPs about video game addiction this week.
York computer scientists discovered a close correlation between loot boxes and gambling. On the other hand, Kerry told MPs that EA thought the boxes were “very ethical and enjoyable.” If you aren't familiar with loot boxes, they are virtual crates that contain items such as weapons, costumes, and other perks.
Kerry Hopkins likened the cost of loot boxes to the cost of Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise. “We do believe the way we've applied these kinds of mechanics – and Fifa, of course, is our major one – has been successful.”
Loot Boxes Are Much More Than Throwaway Toys
According to Ryan Brown, people who play games with loot boxes, a games journalist and publicist, will disagree with EA. “When you talk to any gamer, even those who buy those games and buy into those loot boxes, none of them are content,” he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. “They don't think it's interesting, and they wish it didn't exist.”
And, unlike the toys, Kerry compares them to, he claims that people open a loot box expecting to find something useful. “You expect a toy when you open a Kinder Egg, and you get a toy.” You're looking for something special when you open a loot box.
It's a lot more than a one-time use toy. It's something that people wish for.” It can be compared to online casino deposit via credit card transactions as it is a banned activity in the United Kingdom.
According to Ryan, loot boxes are the most divisive subject in the gaming world, who calls the discussion about their role in games “toxic.”
EA, he claims, is among the worst offenders, with games like FIFA and the Star Wars Battlefront franchise.
How About Battlefront II?
Gamers slammed EA's Star Wars Battlefront II, which came out in 2017, for allowing players to pay for loot boxes that contained powerful objects or characters. Other gamers spent several hours looking for the same items, making online play much easier for those who have money to spend.
“They basically locked whole characters behind loot boxes,” Ryan says, “very famous characters and ones they used in their ads.”
Following negative feedback from players and commentators, EA removed some objects from loot boxes in early 2018 in an effort to make gameplay more balanced.
Senators from the Democratic Party in the United States introduced restrictions on loot boxes and “pay-to-win” games earlier this year.
Loot boxes were made illegal in Belgium in April 2018.
Loot boxes are not considered gambling in the United Kingdom if the objects found inside can also be opened by playing the game.
“We agree with the Australian Gambling Commission, the UK Gambling Commission, and several other respected gambling commissions that they aren't gambling, and we also do not agree that there is proof that it adds to gambling,” Kerry said in response to a question from a member of Parliament. ”
Instead, we believe it's similar to many other health products where people love the element of surprise.” According to new rules adopted this year, games with loot boxes purchased via Google's Play Store are required by law to display the odds of finding each piece.
Games Can Still Make Money Without Loot Boxes
Ryan argues that this should also be a legal requirement in the United Kingdom. “Often, the chances are as low as 0.001%, and people must understand how attainable each thing is,” he says. “I don't believe they're essential in the industry; there are plenty of other, better-received monetization approaches.”
Without loot boxes, video games can generate enough revenue. I don't think they're justified in any way.” The creators of Fortnite were among the other game industry personalities who spoke in front of MPs.
Canon Pence and Matthew Weissinger of Epic Games said they were “very taken aback” by Prince Harry's remarks earlier this year that Fortnite should be banned because it was created to be addictive.
It appears that the move against gambling addiction may also extend more to the video gaming world in the next couple of years, and it just might change video gaming as we know it.