The UK Parliament’s investigation Committee on gaming is continuing, working on assessing just about every hot button issue in gaming from game addiction to considering ways the government can support the VR industry.
The atmosphere around loot boxes is getting more and more intense, and EA has fanned its share of the flames. EA’s Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs Kelly Hopkins appeared before the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee to participate in an oral evidence session and share his position on loot boxes in gaming.
Governments around the world have been pursuing legislation that would rein in some of the more worrisome aspects of loot box economies in gaming and entertainment, and the special UK Parliament session met to focus on immersive and addictive technologies.
EA executive Hopkins made the tactical decision during the session to tell the committee that “they’re not loot boxes” in the first place. Twitter user Nibellion shared some footage of the special session today. The full session is available on the UK’ Parliament’s website, parliamentlive.tv.
EA’s VP of legal and government affairs refuses to use the term ‘lootboxes’ in favor of ‘surprise mechanics’, compares them to Kinder Eggs, says they are not gambling and ‘quite ethical’https://t.co/IbRqMwvJea pic.twitter.com/bJ8t3Fkib6
— Nibel (@Nibellion) June 19, 2019
The microtransaction-based “box” that a player might open for a chance at “loot” for their game of choice, is not, according to Hopkins, a “loot box.” That would of course be a ridiculous assumption. Hopkins went on to explain EA’s philosophy on the totally not loot boxes.
“First, we don’t call them loot boxes, we look at them as surprise mechanics,” Hopkins explained. “If you go to […] a store that sells a lot of toys, and you do a search for surprise toys, what you’ll find is that this is something people enjoy, they enjoy surprises.”
[Surprises have been around] for years, whether it’s Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise.
In response to questions during the panel from the Scottish National Party MP Brendan O’Hara, Hopkins said, “We [at EA] 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.” This isn’t the first time the company has defended loot boxes or microtransactions either. The backlash around EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II led to an EA community representative defending the microtransaction system receiving the most downvotes in the site’s history.
On the specific matter of loot boxes being a form of gambling that is especially dangerous to children, Hopkins added that EA does “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.”
The Dutch and Belgian regulating bodies have concerns over loot box economies in games with Battlefield II-style loot box practices. “They decided – the regulator, not the courts – decided that under their local law, these mechanics under certain circumstances violate the law,” Hopkins said during the evidence hearing.
The UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee are not ruling on the legality of gambling or loot box economies at this time, and it remains to be seen what effects this oral evidence hearing will manifest.