The CEO of Electronic Arts, Andrew Wilson, said in an investor call Tuesday that loot boxes should not be considered gambling. Mr. Wilson’s comments came shortly after the in-game purchasable items were found to be violating gambling laws in a number of countries.
It was actually an Electronic Arts game that stirred the ongoing debate over the nature of loot boxes and whether these constituted a form of gambling. EA launched the latest installment of the Star Wars: Battlefront series last fall. The game – Star Wars Battlefront II, immediately found itself at the center of a bitter controversy over the arbitrary contents of its loot boxes. The game publisher pulled those from its newest Star Wars game following the negative publicity surrounding the game’s release.
A number of gambling regulators, including those of the Netherlands and Belgium, launched probes into loot boxes and whether buying them represented gambling. Generally speaking, the boxes contain different items that can be of little value to a player or can help them boost their performance within the game.
Regulators have expressed concerns that the fact players become aware of a loot box’s contents only after it has been purchased could represent a form of gambling. In addition, it seems that players are not properly informed about the odds of having one valuable object or another in their boxes, which has further intensified the debate over the nature of the controversial items.
Mr. Wilson said in Tuesday’s investor call that they firmly believe loot boxes should not be considered gambling. The executive went on that players are always assigned a specified number of items per box and that EA does not authorize the cash-out or sale of items contained in the boxes or virtual currency for real money.
The Dutch and Belgian gambling regulators carried out separate investigations into loot boxes and released their findings last month. They both probed several video games that featured loot boxes and generally found that some of those violated gambling regulations in their countries.
The Dutch Gambling Authority, Kansspelautoriteit, investigated ten video games and found that loot boxes in at least four of them ran afoul of the Netherlands’ Betting and Gaming Act. According to the regulatory body these incorporated elements of games of chance into skill-based games. Under the country’s gambling law, the provision of games of chance without a specific license is strictly prohibited.
The Belgian Gaming Commission found that three video games violated its gambling law, with those being FIFA 18, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch. While Star Wars Battlefront II was the game to start the loot box conversation, Belgium’s gambling regulator said that the game’d publisher had addressed the issue in a timely manner and that it did not think the game, in its current form, violated the country’s gambling regulations.
Norway has become the latest country to join the loot box debate. It became known last week that a Norwegian scholar would carry out his own review of the issue and would refer his findings to the country’s government as it is considering the possibility to introduce specific loot box regulations.
Robert Johnson is an experienced web author and blogger. He has over three years of experience as a freelance journalist and writer.