EA: They’re not loot boxes, they’re “surprise mechanics,” and they’re “quite ethical”

"We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics is actually quite ethical and quite fun"

EA’s implementation of loot boxes has come under plenty of fire, even relative to the general outcry against the mechanic. The pushback against Battlefront 2 loot boxes was so intense that EA reworked the entire system, and the wild popularity of FIFA Ultimate Team means that it has gotten scrutiny even from watchdog groups and governmental organisations.

Kerry Hopkins, EA’s VP of legal and government affairs, insists that the company’s randomised purchases aren’t loot boxes, but rather “surprise mechanics.” In an oral evidence session with the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, Hopkins compares the mechanics to surprise toys, which have been around “for years, whether it’s Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise.”

In response to questions from Scottish National Party MP, Brendan O’Hara, Hopkins says “We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics – and FIFA of course is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.

“We do agree with the UK gambling commission, the Australian gambling commission, and many other gambling commissions that they aren’t gambling, and we also disagree that there’s evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead we think it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and like the element of surprise.”

Obviously, that also means that EA disagrees with the anti-loot box stance taken by Dutch and Belgian regulators. “They decided – the regulator, not the courts – decided that under their local law, these mechanics under certain circumstances violate the law.”

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You can hear all these comments in full through the archive of the Parliament broadcast, starting at 15:43:15.

The UK government’s investigation on gaming was announced earlier this year, and it concerns much more than just loot boxes – everything from game addiction to the ways the government can support the VR industry is on the list. Whether any legislative action results from these investigations remains to be seen.