Casino Watch Focus has long reported on loot boxes in video games and how more and more jurisdictions are treating them like gambling and regulating them accordingly. Most recently, a California law was used to push lawsuits against Apple and Google for loot boxes allowed through games in their app stores. Now, EA, the publisher best known for kicking off the media and social campaigns that outlined and revealed loot boxes and gambling to the world through its Star Wars game Battlefront II, is facing a $5 million class action lawsuit. Specifically, the class action is citing one of EA’s most profitable games, Fifa Ultimate Team. An online source explains:
Video Games Chronicle reports Kevin Ramirez filed the class action lawsuit with the Northern District of California on the behalf of 100 other plaintiffs. In the suit, they allege EA “relies on creating addictive behaviors in consumers to generate huge revenues.” They specifically call out EA’s Ultimate Team Packs, which allow gamers to assemble their favorite teams for online play, saying they “are predatory and designed to entice gamers to gamble.” They go on to add:
“EA’s Ultimate Team Packs are Loot Boxes. Buying the Packs are nothing more than a gambling bet. Purchased using real money, the Ultimate Team Packs are simply wagers on completely randomized chances within the game to win valuable professional players and other items for the EA gamer’s virtual sports team.”
They will have to prove that loot boxes rise to the level of California’s definition of gambling. That definition defines a gambling device as “a machine, aperture, or device; something of value is given to play; and the player may receive something of value by element of chance.” The lawsuit goes on to say:
“None of these elements can be in dispute. A gamer uses his console, computer, smartphone or tablet with the EA sports franchise game on it (#1); the gamer pays real-world currency for the opportunity to open an Ultimate Team Pack (#2); and the Ultimate Team Pack is a randomized chance to win something valuable in-game.”
The timing of this particular class action lawsuit is of particular note given a recent study that examined the relationship between loot box purchases and gambling problems. The study draws a parallel between gambling problems and access to loot boxes. The study doesn’t claim that loot boxes will lead to problem gambling, but that those who suffer from problem gambling issues will engage in loot boxes. Given how widely accessible they are to gamers, this makes the responsibility to regulate them appropriately even more clear. An online source explains:
A new study from CQUniversity Australia has found that gamers who purchase loot boxes are more likely to have gambling problems… The study looked at 2,000 gamers between the ages of 12 and 24, and over 93% had played a video game that contained loot boxes in the past year. The majority of respondents agreed that loot boxes have some sort of addictive quality, and one third said they regularly purchased them. In fact, adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 spent a median of $50 on loot boxes. Parents are often unsure as to what loot boxes even are and, because of this, the study calls for increased monitoring and enhanced public awareness campaigns by the gaming industry.
Worse yet, researchers Dr. Alex Russell and Professor Matthew Rockloff found that 62% of the best-selling games now include loot boxes — including /Angry Birds/ and /Counter-Strike/. They point out that many of the most valuable rewards are often resold online for real cash, further blurring the line between loot boxes and gambling.
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