Loot boxes are a form of gambling- the issue is at least contentious enough that multiple governments around the world have decided to look into the issue (although many seem to have concluded that they do not fall under the legal definition of gambling). They are an abusive, predatory monetization practice that to begin with has no room in gaming, but when taken to an extreme, like EA did with Battlefront 2, can be detrimental to the game experience.
Obviously, EA, whose entire fortune is built around loot boxes and in game monetization, doesn’t want to admit that loot boxes are gambling, however. EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said during an earnings call that loot boxes are not a form of gambling, with EA CEO Andrew Wilson conceding, however, that their implementation in game needs to be fair.
“We do not believe that loot boxes and similar mechanics are a form of gambling.” he said. “I think there are a plenty of governments around the world that have agreed with us on that. And there isn’t just us it is the entire industry. We work very carefully and closely with all of our industry partners and the ESA the industry body to make sure that people understand exactly what loot boxes are, exactly why they are not gambling and we will continue to engage in that going forward. We think that’s important and I think there is a lot of consumers who would argue the same thing based on their great experience they have with fun games to have associated live services with them, that some may be misconstruing as a loot box or a gambling mechanism.”
“At the very core we must always build on the foundation of player of choice,” Wilson said. “And that might be the choice of whether a player engages in a particular mode or not, that might be whether a player decides to grind for something or not. But in all things it’s around providing a fair playing field with players feel they have choice. And you should expect that we will continue to drive hard against that and ensure that again we didn’t set out as I said in the prepared remarks to build the feature set that could be perceived to be anything other than fair. It’s clear that we didn’t quite get that balance right. But we are doubling down now to ensure that we do it.”
Wilson’s comments at least sound encouraging where he speaks of game balance, and admits that EA got it wrong with Battlefront 2– but given how egregious and blatant EA has been with its money grubbing maneuvers, I am not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on additional game monetization just yet. They have a long way to go if they want to win some trust and goodwill back.