EA: Loot boxes are surprise mechanics

Last week four representatives from the games industry were invited to the British Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee for a questioning session regarding their video games. The industry representatives were Kerry Hopkins, vice president of legal and government affairs at EA, Shaun Cambell, EA UK and Ireland Country manager, Matthew Weissinger, Epic Games Director, Marketing and Canon Pence, Epic Games General Counsel.

The committee began by asking the representatives questions if they kept track of play time, age data and if they kept track of how much a player has spent in microtransactions within a game.

It was when Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara brought the topic to loot boxes things started to get really interesting. When O’Hara asked the question: “Do you consider loot boxes to be an ethical feature?” EA’s Kerry Hopkins replied that they don’t call them “loot boxes” but rather “surprise mechanics”, something that made O’Hara chuckle. She continued by saying that people enjoy surprises and that it has been part of toys for years in products like Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals or LOL Surprise. “The way we have implemented these mechanics is actually quite ethical and quite fun and enjoyable to people”.

It is evident that EA felt pressured about these questions and the public concern about their “surprise mechanics”, especially considering that they make up quite a large part of their profit margin. In the end, our opinion is that it is up the game provider to make sure children and adolescents under the age of 18 are not exposed to these kinds of features, since they are not equipped with the right tools to fully understand they are being duped into spending their allowance on digital nothings.