EA Under Criminal Investigation
by Glenn Baird - September 12, 2018
Belgian authorities will lead a criminal investigation into the use of loot boxes in Electronic Arts’ (EA) extremely popular football video games, FIFA 18 and 19.
The use of these so called loot boxes has been big news of late, with regulators in both Belgium and the Netherlands branding them as a “ game of chance”, which means they have been classified as a form of gambling.
Loot boxes are in-game awards that, when opened, give the player a prize, such as a gun, or in this case a football player.
The law, which was passed earlier this year has yet to come into full force but could see companies fined as much as 800,000 Euros for failing to comply.
Despite many gaming companies meeting demands and removing loot boxes from their games, EA has refused to do so.
The result of this refusal to comply means that EA will now find themselves subject to a criminal investigation.
Earlier this year, Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA refused to accept that loot boxes were a form of gambling and the company continue to offer their “Fifa Ultimate Team” boxes.
“We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack,” said Wilson. ”Secondly we don’t provide or authorise any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money.”
Many have compared the loot boxes in FIFA games to packs of football stickers and argue that this has never been considered a form of gambling.
However, Peter Naessens, the director of Belgium’s main regulator has stated that, “Panini prints just as many stickers from every footballer. It is not a roulette between common and rare pictures. With FIFA 18, that is indeed the case.”
Not all countries have followed Belgium and the Netherlands down this path, with the UKGC ruling that loot boxes do not constitute gambling back November last year.