EA fined €10M for loot boxes

The video game developer Electronic Arts has been fined €10M for the use of loot boxes in the football IP “FIFA”. Loot boxes contain random items in exchange for payment, and are often targeted to the younger audience. EA was given the fine notice during the last year, but has since then then appealed the ruling to the Dutch authorities. The court followed the Dutch gambling authority’s opinion, which is that these kinds of elements have no place in video games.

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.

Blizzard removes HotS RM loot boxes

In the latest patch for Heroes of the Storm Blizzard has removed the ability to purchase the in-game loot boxes for gems, i.e. real money. It is not stated why they suddenly decided to take this action, but the recent events in Belgium and Netherlands with the respective governments taking action against EA for their FIFA loot boxes is probably the reason why.

The patch notes state:

  • Loot chests are no longer available for Gem purchase.
  • Rare loot chests are now available for Gold purchase (3000 each).

We see this as a safety precaution as ActivisionBlizzard has received a lot of bad press lately and probably didn’t want to add more fuel to the fire. Given the state that Heroes of the Storm is in right now, we speculate that the income generated from gem sales are probably really low.

Black Ops 4 gets loot boxes

I don’t think anyone is really surprised to hear that loot boxes will be added to Black Ops 4 in its upcoming patch, as Activision has been caught lying to their customers on multiple occasions already. We all remember how we were told that Black Ops 4 wouldn’t even contain any sort of micro-transactions, only to see it being added to the game AFTER release, when all the game reviews had been written and most gamers had already purchased the game.

In this new effort of cramming that extra dollar out of their customers, they bring us the “Reserve case”, a euphemism for a loot box that will be sold for $2 in the in-game store. We are told that the contents will be cosmetic only, but we already kind of know that will change in the future…

Activision is in desperate need of increased revenue growth as their last earnings call didn’t impress their shareholders. After sacking 800 employees, mainly from their customers support divisions, this is the next step of the plan, increasing the monetization of their current products. By the looks of it, they are willing to pay any price in terms of relations to their customers, not that they have a great reputation to begin with. Maybe that’s how the reasoning went behind this decision. How much worse can their reputation actually become?

EA folds in Belgium

In April of 2018, Belgium contested the in-game purchasable player packs in EA’s FIFA, claiming them to be of a gambling nature since you don’t know the outcome of the purchase. This meant that EA would have to have a license to sell the packs, which they didn’t. EA has basically been violating the Belgian law for quite a while.

The good news is that EA has finally made the decision to stop selling the “loot boxes” in Belgium and they are very sorry on their customers behalf since they are not able to provide that service any longer. Well, good riddance.

It remains to be seen if other European countries will follow suit. Something we dearly hope here at Don’t Pay the Game, and think they at least should consider, especially since FIFA games are marketed towards individuals with an age of less than 18. The game has rating of 3 (years old), which makes the situation even more concerning. Does your child purchase the player packs? The biggest question of them all is though… Why aren’t games containing loot boxes forced to be rated 18+?

A red dot for $1

When you think Activision can’t sink any lower with Black Ops 4, here they are, surprising us all again. Their latest addition to the in-game shop is a red dot reticle for your reflex sight, and they are charging the equivalent of $1 for it.

“But it’s just $1.” I prefer to phrase it the other way around. “It’s just a red dot!” To be frank, I don’t see where Activision get the balls to try and charge gamers $1 for a few red pixels. Surely they have to understand that a scheme like this will blow up in their face and put more fuel to the fire of “Cashtivision”

So why do they do this? To get players credit card numbers on the hook. Players who would never spend anything in the game otherwise but think “But it’s just $1.” When the next “crazy sale” of 50% off digital items opens up, it’s only one click of a button away…

Merry XMAS from Bethesda

Bethesda continues to put themselves in the limelight, and yet again all for the wrong reasons. This time around its outrageously overpriced Xmas-cosmetics in the Fallout 76 Atomic Shop. When the content first was released, it was advertised as “50% off” and “33% off”, Bethesda was however slapped on the wrist for that kind of marketing. It’s actually illegal. You can’t advertise a just-released product like it’s on a sale, because it isn’t. IT JUST RELEASED!! What is more surprising is that Bethesda tried to pull a stunt like this. They surely have to be aware of the consumer legislation both in America and the EU, right?

So how about a Santa costume pack for 2000 atomic points, the equivalent of $20. Or an Emote Pack for 1200 atomic points, the equivalent of $12. The Red Rocket Mega Sign will be yours for only 1400 atomic points, but hurry it’s a limited time offer lasting only three days. Then they will have run out of stock. Two pieces of cosmetic content costing more than the actual game.

As usual: Vote with your wallet folks.