While loot boxes have been under fire from players for years, inquiries into the legality and ethics of loot boxes have picked up as governments world wide have taken a closer look at the practice as a whole. Electronic Arts reassured UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee that loot boxes are better characterized as “surprise mechanics”, and that they are “quite ethical and quite fun”.
Kerry Hopkins, VP of EA’s legal and government affairs made the statement after asked by UK Parliament member Brendan O’Hara asked him and marketing director at Epic Games Matthew Weissinger if loot boxes were an ethical feature of their games. Hopkins went on to compare loot boxes with other products with loot box or blond box aspects such as Kinder Eggs or Hatchimals:
They enjoy surprises. It is something that has been part of toys for years, whether it is Kinder eggs or Hatchimals or LOL Surprise!. We think the way we have implemented those kinds of mechanics—and FIFA, of course, is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs—is quite ethical and quite fun; it is enjoyable to people. We agree with the UK Gambling Commission, the Australian gambling commission and many other gambling commissions that they are not gambling, and we also disagree that there is evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead, we think it is like many other products that people enjoy in a very healthy way. They like the element of surprise.
Weissinger remained silent for much of this discussion, speaking up only to point out that Epic Games does not sell loot boxes or any type of surprise mechanic in Fortnite.
When questioned further on the ethics of selling loot boxes, Hopkins said “For all of the games we have on the market that have a randomised content mechanic—a surprise mechanic, a loot box—I have no qualms that they are implemented in an unethical way.”
Electronic Arts came under intense scrutiny after the details of the microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront II released to the public. Fan favorite characters like Darth Vader were locked behind days of dedicated gameplay, or could be unlocked for a price.