August 17, 2022

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Another FIFA Release, Another Year of Loot Box Controversy

FIFA 22 has just been released and while the usual buzz that surrounded the launch was still there, the noise from critics has also been getting louder. Since FIFA’s original video game launch in 1993, it has been considered at the forefront of technology; over the past 10 years, micro-transactions and downloadable content has become a big part of a lot of games, including FIFA’s many releases.

Alongside the typical fanfare of a new release has been a growing number of campaigners questioning the moral and legal implications of these microtransactions within the game.

Why is Fifa Under The Spot Light?

There are two types of micro-transactions within the FIFA game – packs and loot boxes, and both of these mechanisms have been questioned by critics. EA has come under fire in recent years for pushing players towards making micro-transactions by making the game harder and more reliant on items that need to be purchased with real-life currency. Both of these purchasable items have been criticised for potentially encouraging gambling, particularly by minors that wouldn’t legally be allowed to gamble in their country.  

What’s The Problem with FIFA Loot Box?

Loot boxes are virtual boxes that contain one or more items. When the player purchases or earns a box they will be presented with various items that could be in the box but they don’t know exactly what they will receive. Similarly, packs are a FIFA-specific mechanism that allows you to use real-world currency to buy more players for your team.

When you buy a pack you are randomly given players from a list of possibilities – some of which are of course more desirable than others. While you may already know about packs and loot boxes, hearing it explained makes it a lot easier to see the connection between these in-game features and gambling that campaigners have been arguing against. 

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Is Buying a Loot Box The Same As Visiting a Casino?

The premise of most online casino games is that they are games of chance. You place bets based on an outcome that you hope will happen. If it happens then you win your bet and a cash reward – if not then you lose your money to the casino.

On some games, like roulette, you can choose bets that are more likely to win, but for the most part, it’s random. Loot boxes and packs are best compared to a slot machine where the odds are fixed for each outcome. The likelihood of a small win will be higher than a large win.

In the case of loot boxes and packs, you’re much more likely to receive a less desirable or more common item/player than the more sought after option. Like slot machines where the player continues in the hopes of “winning big”, FIFA players are more likely to keep buying boxes until they get a good player or item.

With so much discussion in the past year about problem gambling, critics have taken issue with FIFA’s game mechanics which were referred to as “pay to win” by many campaigners, as it’s almost like “starting them young”. These micro-transactions can very quickly build up and create a problem habit in children that are too young to be gambling.

Do Loot Boxes Need To Be Regulated?

This list shows the number of slot sites available in the UK – but note how all are fully licensed and only available for those aged 18 and over. When it comes to loot boxes there are simply not the same rules and regulations – for example, online casinos should be licensed and regulated to ensure that anyone betting gets a fair experience.

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Loot boxes don’t have the same regulations attached to them which mean that not only are people betting their money on what is inside but on the chance that the person offering the loot box is doing so fairly – rather than just trying to scam people out of money.

What Else is Being Said About FIFA Loot Box?

Further criticism of EA comes from their mobile app- the EA FIFA Companion app allows players to adjust their team and customise their stadium among many other features from a mobile device. Of course, it also allows players to purchase loot boxes on the go. For younger players, this effectively puts a mobile casino in their pockets and encourages problem gambling from an age that they’re most impressionable.

CBC reported on a leaked 54-page document from inside EA that openly discussed doing everything they could to drive the players to pay, and of course, this only served to re-energise critics of EA’s “pay to win” model. EA has since hit back in a statement denying that they encourage young players to spend in their games.

EA said that they firmly disagreed that FIFA or any of their games involved gambling. However, the statement didn’t seem to do a lot to help their case as many countries, including the UK, move to investigate the possibility of loot boxes being considered gambling. It seems that EA is walking a very fine line and it’s up to the government to decide which side it falls on.

The Future of Fifa and Loot Boxes

There have been some changes in the way that loot boxes can be offered throughout the world and in some places they have been banned completely. Loot boxes aren’t currently banned worldwide; there is likely to be some regulation put in place surrounding them.

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It is thought that there may be some age restrictions placed on them – after all, they recently changed it so that those under 18 can’t buy a lottery ticket in the UK; so why wouldn’t a gamble on a loot box be considered the same? The fact it is hidden inside a game that is meant for all ages shouldn’t disguise the fact that buying one is a gamble, especially when things are regulated and you don’t really know who you are buying from and how fair they are being with the contents inside them.