Tuesday, September 11th 2018

Electronic Arts Will Not Remove Loot Boxes from FIFA 18 in Direct Disregard to Belgian Law

Well, well, well. It was only a few days ago that we reported how 2K was being brazen about asking their game players to talk to the Belgian government about keeping loot boxes in their NBA series and turns out Electronic Arts (EA) decided they could do one worse. Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad published a story on how the Belgian Gaming Commission is preparing to take a legal stance against EA for refusing to remove loot boxes from FIFA 18 wherein their game buyers could purchase player packs with real money and not know what they receive in return. As if that was not bad enough, EA has doubled down with FIFA 19 by having the same "feature" again but with an increased roster to further tune the loot box chances against the customer. Andrew Wilson, the CEO of EA, commented that these loot boxes are not gambling as players know exactly how many objects they receive.

As it stands, the Belgian Gaming Commission has sent an official report to EA about their refusal to comply with the act that has been ratified since. The report states that anyone who does not conform will face the risk of legal prosecution, and it is now up to the Brussels public prosecutor's office to decide whether or not they want to charge EA accordingly. EA, meanwhile, is prepared to fight this in court and a judgement here would set a massive precedent to what is allowed in game microtransactions in the future. EA remains the only major game publisher to not make changes as directed, with Valve, Activision Blizzard and 2K, having done so before- albeit begrudgingly in some cases. Loot boxes contributed a major part of EA's annual revenue last year, with some citing online sales to be as much as 67% (which includes other forms of purchases, not just microtransactions). No wonder then that EA would like to keep milking this cow as much as they can, even if that means less milk to everyone else.
Source: Het Nieuwsblad
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31 Comments on Electronic Arts Will Not Remove Loot Boxes from FIFA 18 in Direct Disregard to Belgian Law

#1
Durvelle27
EA just buried themselves even deeper
Posted on Reply
#2
RCoon
Gaming Moderator
Two outcomes:
1. A huge lump of cash labelled "Definitely not a bribe" will land in the Brussels' Prosecutor's Office and no charge will be made
2. The Prosecutor's Office decides to use EA as an example to the rest of the industry and bans the offending games from that country and/or slaps a paltry fine EA won't care about
Posted on Reply
#3
neatfeatguy
EA probably figures any fine(s) it gets will easily be offset by all the money they'll rake in from every other place that allows these kind of loot boxes.
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#4
Assimilator
Belgium will simply ban FIFA games from being sold in their country. We'll see EA bend over very quickly after that.
Posted on Reply
#5
Fleurious
RCoon said:
Two outcomes:
1. A huge lump of cash labelled "Definitely not a bribe" will land in the Brussels' Prosecutor's Office and no charge will be made
2. The Prosecutor's Office decides to use EA as an example to the rest of the industry and bans the offending games from that country and/or slaps a paltry fine EA won't care about
Please be the second. Maybe a gofundme can be started to deposit a ‘definitely not a bribe’ in the prosecutor’s pocket to ensure charges are laid. :D
Posted on Reply
#6
dirtyferret
just goes to show how much money these companies rake in with loot boxes
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#7
Beertintedgoggles
So just being the Devil's advocate here..... since EA claims the user knows how many items they will receive, just not exactly which items; how are loot boxes any different than buying a pack of baseball cards?

I can also understand the stance of EA here. Regardless of how someone feels about the idea of loot boxes, from the numbers it looks like these microtransactions made up a large percentage of their revenue last year. I'm assuming here, but it's probably safe to assume that they made more off of microtransactions than their entire sales to just the country of Belgium (population 11.35 million as of 2016). I'm not a shareholder but if I was, I'd be pretty adamant that EA continues the use of loot boxes even if it meant losing all sales to one smaller country. Additionally, why couldn't EA simply state that they will not distribute games to Belgium knowing full well that any resident that wants their games would buy from an out of country entity and still get their hands on it? That way, if / when the court comes down on EA they can argue that it was the buyer's fault that they even have their game in the banned country.

Just throwing some thoughts out there on the subject. I have no love or hate for EA or loot boxes. I do see how limiting a player's ability to advance in a game without them utilizing loot boxes is very shady (essentially limiting the gameplay unless you pay a "bribe" or "ransom" / buy loot box) but for me it is up to the consumer to curtail this trend and not the role of government. As a final disclaimer... these days, my gaming consists almost entirely of old NES titles.
Posted on Reply
#8
Easo
Two things:
1. Belgium will ban the games or EA can bend over and accept the removal of loot boxes.
2. Belgium will manage to get out a possible EU wide ban and EA will not only bend over, but plead to do it.

They are just a gaming company versus one of the core European countries. It will be one sided.
Posted on Reply
#9
R-T-B
Beertintedgoggles said:
how are loot boxes any different than buying a pack of baseball cards?
It wouldn't surprise me if Belgian law would look funny at that too.
Posted on Reply
#10
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Put bluntly, EA is not afraid of the Belgian government and frankly, I doubt they really care if the Belgian government bans the game in that country. They'd rather get banned from a small market then take away their highly profitable loot box model from everywhere, even Belgium. If Belgium doesn't act quick (which it won't), EA can make a lot of money off of FIFA loot boxes by the time Belgium acts to stop it. It's a calculated risk for them.

EA also likely feels that if they don't stand up to the government, it could turn into an avalanche where loot boxes can't be used globally. I don't know what percent of EA's revenue is composed of loot boxes but I'm certain it's a very large chunk (probably around half, article says 67%).

EA's defense in their statement is extremely weak but...consider "happy meal" toys. You get one per "happy meal" but you don't know what it is. Families may buy lots of "happy meals" to complete that toy set for the same reason people buy lots of loot boxes (to get that one card they really want). Should the gambling element of "happy meals" be banned too? Where is the line between random and gambling? Exchange of money?
Posted on Reply
#11
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
Just another reason why I am refusing to purchase BF:V

I understand that a business exists to make money but when youre already making and endless waterfall of money and already have a few billion in the bank but still out to find as many ways to make the waterfall bigger so you can have more money then the whole thing becomes a little Jaded.

The focus is making money. not making great experiences and EA has set the bar pretty low by making a lazy attempt of a game then propping itself up by selling lootcrates.

EA used to be good. I have loved a lot of their games, and I know they can make great games but they just dont want to spare the effort. Just like I stopped buying CoD when it started going downhill after MW2, I will now stop buying EA titles completely.
Posted on Reply
#12
neatfeatguy
Beertintedgoggles said:
So just being the Devil's advocate here..... since EA claims the user knows how many items they will receive, just not exactly which items; how are loot boxes any different than buying a pack of baseball cards?
I could have always gone to a card show and purchased a particular card that I wanted from one of the sellers in a brand (Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, Donuruss.....not sure if there are any others, it's been so long) I wanted or I could try my luck with buying a pack of cards from the appropriate year a player has played and pray I was lucky.

I used to frequent card shows with my older brother back in the late 80s and early 90s - most of the time we had a table and sold cards at them, but we had just as much fun wandering the show and buying. I was a big Bears fan back then (used to go to Platteville, WI back in the day to watch the Bears practice) and had countless autographs from players. My goal, when attending these card shows was getting a Mike Singletary rookie card from Topps in 1981 - I wanted him to sign it at the practice. I came across someone selling a full box of unopened 1981 packs of Topps football cards, but I lacked the funds to buy the box. My older brother went and purchased it because he was working on completing the 1981 Topps, full set, plus he really wanted Lawrence Taylor's rookie card. He went through all the packs and didn't come across either Mike Singletary or Lawrence Taylor's rookie cards.....I eventually found someone selling his rookie card, but I ended up moving by the time I got his rookie card and never visited the training camp again.

My point is. You can find a particular player's card and buy it individually and not have to go through a full case of unopened cards hoping you'll get the one you want.

My understanding with Fifa is that you can't do that. You have to purchase their packs to earn players, you can't just go into the shop and buy a specific player. You're forced to "gamble" in hopes that you get a player you really want.
Posted on Reply
#13
Hardware Geek
neatfeatguy said:
EA probably figures any fine(s) it gets will easily be offset by all the money they'll rake in from every other place that allows these kind of loot boxes.
My thoughts exactly. And they are probably correct. This type of activity is a common business practice for a lot of corporations. It won't stop until consumers refuse to accept it.
Posted on Reply
#14
Beertintedgoggles
neatfeatguy said:
My point is. You can find a particular player's card and buy it individually and not have to go through a full case of unopened cards hoping you'll get the one you want.
Very true and I did have that moment of thought before coming up with the baseball card analogy. My rebuttal though is I've never seen any of the brands sell individual cards, only packs. Back when I was a kid and collecting, you had to get the chalky stick of gum and a handful of other player's cards that no one had ever heard of outside their home crowd. Fast forward to today.... I have no idea.

Edit: We could go to the card/coin/whatever collectible shop and get the card we wanted but it was through a 3rd party and not directly from Topps.
Posted on Reply
#15
altcapwn


Damn EA is run by the antichrist
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#16
lexluthermiester
RCoon said:
Two outcomes:
1. A huge lump of cash labelled "Definitely not a bribe" will land in the Brussels' Prosecutor's Office and no charge will be made
2. The Prosecutor's Office decides to use EA as an example to the rest of the industry and bans the offending games from that country and/or slaps a paltry fine EA won't care about
I predict option 2. EA, and devs in general, need to be shown what their place is and put in it. The fine however needs to be large and the EU needs to back the Belgian Gov on this.
Posted on Reply
#17
StrayKAT
altcapwn said:


Damn EA is run by the antichrist
Unfortunately, he's just an unremarkable marketing grad with thinning hair.
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#18
NTM2003
You think ea is bad elder scrolls online crowns go up to $150 to buy crap from there store. I mean I play the game but don't spend on crown store. Basically there loot boxes.
Posted on Reply
#19
HTC
lexluthermiester said:
I predict option 2. EA, and devs in general, need to be shown what their place is and put in it. The fine however needs to be large and the EU needs to back the Belgian Gov on this.
If this isn't the case, i can totally picture EA laughing about it but, judging by latest EU fines, EA may end up regretting this ... hard ...

We shall see ...
Posted on Reply
#20
hat
Enthusiast
I'm happy to see somebody trying to smack this lootbox nonsense out... but just who is Belgium, anyway? They're just one small country in Europe. EA would probably rather have the game banned in Belgium than get rid of lootboxes for the rest of the world. This will only work if there's a large following behind Belgium here... like, the rest of the EU.
Posted on Reply
#21
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Even then, they would probably only remove lootboxes from the EU SKU. Rest of the world would still get them. They already have EU SKUs because of localization so it wouldn't be technically difficult at all for them to extend that. It's more complicated for them to police one country because they'd have to create a separate SKU for Belgium. Probably why EA is refusing to comply.
Posted on Reply
#22
RejZoR
And i bet they'd literally just cut it out so EU players won't even get free stuff that is obtained through loot system...
Posted on Reply
#23
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
My guess is they'll do the math: They know exactly what the odds are with the lootboxes. They'll translate that into fixed prices on their store. You either buy it at that price or you don't get it at all.

Publishers like EA just want money. The reason why they turned to loot boxes is because the gambling mechanic has repeatedly been shown to encourage people to spend more than they would otherwise. They know they're preying on specific demographics that are vulnerability to exploitation. They don't care. They'll keep doing it as long as they can get away with it.

"Free stuff" is a calculation. That approach to compliance with the law is only used if implementing an alterative exceeds the cost of simply giving it away. 2K especially was blindsided by Belgium's move. Going forward (2019 games), they'll be ready for it.
Posted on Reply
#24
Prima.Vera
FordGT90Concept said:
Should the gambling element of "happy meals" be banned too? Where is the line between random and gambling? Exchange of money?
The answer it's yes. All this type of gambling should be banned. Either is micro-transactions, loot boxes, happy meals toys, etc.
If I buy a product I want to know exactly what I am buying and paying for. Not some random crap which I might already have.
If I want gambling I go to the Casino, Pacinko-Slots, etc, not to a family restaurant or on the kids games.
Yep, I think not only Belgium, but whole EU should take out a stance for this garbage.
Posted on Reply
#25
Caring1
Remove loot boxes and make it a multiple choice selection, one item from a list, that way there is no gambling and prices are set.
Item list must be shown prior to payment, that way the onus is on the buyer.
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