Electronic Arts Withdraws In-Game Purchases From New Stars Wars Battlefront II
Player dissatisfaction with effort required to achieve a loot box and accusations of gambling behind decision?
Video games developer and publisher Electronic Arts is embroiled in controversy over its new Stars Wars Battlefron II game release, with players complaining about the difficulty of winning sufficient points to receive a loot box, and an opinion by the Belgian Gambling Commission that loot boxes acquired with points purchased with real money constitutes gambling (see previous InfoPowa reports).
Loot boxes are virtual crates containing upgrades, accessories or prizes which are awarded to players who have accumulated in-game points, but for those without the patience to slog through hours of gameplay the crates can also be acquired using points bought with real money.
One report quoted a player who calculated that unlocking everything in the game the hard way costs 4,528 hours or $2,100.
On Thursday, just before the full release of the new game, EA backed down on the issue, advising in a statement by Battlefront general manager Oskar Gabrielson that it has temporarily placed a moratorium on in-game purchases whilst it further considers the issue.
Oskarson apologised to fans, saying:
“We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay.”
However, he added that crystals will be available to purchase in-game at a later date.
UPDATE: The Dutch regulator is also investigating whether video games with loot boxes can be considered games of chance, according to weekend media reports.
Call For French Regulator To Probe Loot Boxes (Update)
Senator concerned about consumer protection
French Senator Jérôme Durain has asked France’s online gambling regulator ARJEL to follow Belgium and the Netherlands in investigating whether loot boxes in video games constitute gambling, and what consumer protections may be necessary.
Loot boxes are in-game “crates” full of surprise upgrades, prizes and accessories which can be won through accumulating points or bought with points purchased with real money (see previous InfoPowa reports).
Writing to ARJEL, Senator Durain observed:
“While I do not think it is necessary at this stage to put in place specific legislation, I wonder about the desirability of providing consumer protection in this area. The use of loot boxes conferring cosmetic additions to the games seems well-accepted by the public. The development of so-called pay-to-win practices is more contentious, as shown by the recent controversy over the game Star Wars Battlefront 2. Quite aside from the acceptance of the practice, some observers point to a convergence of the video game world and practices specific to gambling.”
Last week games developer EA suspended loot box transactions in its new Star Wars Battlefront II game following complaints by players that they were too hard to earn, and the news that the Belgian Gambling Commission has launched an inquiry into whether these rewards were a disguised form of gambling.
Belgian Gaming Commission Gives Opinion On Loot Boxes (Update)
Investigation concludes that the use of loot boxes constitutes gambling
After just a week of investigation (see previous InfoPowa reports) the Belgian Gaming Commission has issued its opinion that the use of loot boxes constitutes gambling, finding:
“The mixing of money and addiction is gambling.”
Belgium’s Minister of Justice, Koen Geens has also weighed in, saying, “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
Australian Provincial Regulator Says Loot Boxes Are Gambling (Update)
Responding to an enquiry, Victorian regulatory official says loot boxes are gambling, but it’s hard to regulate
Responding to an enquiry from a member of the public this week, Jarrod Wolfe, a strategic analyst in the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation compliance division, said that the use of loot boxes in video games is legally questionable and constitutes gambling under current provincial legislation, although it is hard to regulate.
His opinion follows a similar view expressed earlier this week by the Belgian Gambling Commission, a Hawaiian lawmaker and the Dutch regulator’s confirmation that the issue is under consideration (see previous InfoPowa reports).
Wolfe observed in his response to the query that legislation has not moved as fast as the technology, leaving authorities at both state and federal levels not best equipped to determine the legality of loot box practices in lieu of the fact the entities responsible are based overseas.
He revealed that the Victorian regulator has been “engaging with interstate and international counterparts” to work on policy changes that would “modernise and inform both federal and state based legislation”.