Loot boxes might be all the rage these days across the gaming space, but the practice continues to be a controversial subject in some quarters. Now, a class-action lawsuit filed in California claims that the FIFA series’ Ultimate Team mode is a form of gambling.
“EA’s Ultimate Team Packs are Loot Boxes. Buying the Packs are nothing more than a gambling bet,” a portion of the case reads, as reported by VGC. “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.”
The suit seeks damages of $5 million, and includes a proposed class of more than 100. Plaintiff Kevin Ramirez says that he’s spent more than $600 on FIFA and Madden’s Ultimate Team modes since 2011. In the past, EA has responded to such accusations by claiming that players are guaranteed to receive at least some item from a loot box, so they do not constitute gambling. (This explanation did not hold water for French regulators, though they did conclude that loot boxes do not meet the standard for gambling under their country’s laws.) California law defines an illegal 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.”
Loot boxes have faced scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers for years now, with the mechanic being banned in Belgium in 2018 as a form of gambling. New research released in Australia just last week concluded that players who buy loot boxes are more likely to suffer from a compulsion to gamble. These pressures led Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft to announce late last year that all games must disclose the odds of obtaining virtual items on their storefronts. Since EA’s sports business (and the microtransactions that come along with it) are such a huge part of its revenue, this is potentially a very important ruling for the company.
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