EA Sports have been making the FIFA series video game since 1995. The game is more popular now than ever before in 2020 with new game FIFA 21 selling millions of copies worldwide. However, partially due to its popularity, the game has sparked massive controversy thanks to potential gambling features. The game is rated U which means it is ‘suitable for everyone’. In other words, there is no age limit on this game but many people still believe it to have gambling within it, comparing it to the type of casinos found on CasinoRange, which of course should be restricted to people over the age of 18.
What’s all the bother about?
The feature which many see as gambling is in the Ultimate Team sector within the game. There are packs which can be bought with both virtual coins and real money that contain virtual players which can be put into the user’s team. Ultimate Team was founded in 2009 and went over 10 years before anyone properly challenged whether the packs in the ‘store’ were a form of gambling.
Many people have been complaining about loot boxes in games like Fortnite which has resulted in countries such as China and Belgium banning them. The random cycle of what could appear from a loot box is likened to the random spin on a slot game. Slots are strictly 18+ only in the UK so there is a big argument to make these video games the same age rating. Similar effects have been believed to be shown on the packs in the FIFA Ultimate Team store. There is a random chance of getting specific players in a pack, or at least that was what the public thought. In fact, EA did confirm that different players had different probabilities of getting released from packs. This meant that they had to make some of these probabilities visible in the store before users opened any packs. This helped to reduce the complaints from onlookers about children being exposed to gambling underage. Things seemed to have died down for a while, until recently when more action has been taken.
EA’s New Measures
Due to the continued complaints against the gambling side of the FIFA game, EA has now introduced a tool to manage how much a player can spend on packs. The company has been accused of advertising microtransactions to children by Smyths Toy Store. This is a serious offence to be accused of which is why EA are subject to changing how their game is run. Belgium in particular seems to be taking a very strong view on any gambling within video games. The Belgian government has ruled that the FIFA games DO break gambling laws by selling loot boxes to children. This gives EA two options. They must either remove any microtransactions from their game or continue (if they believe to be innocent) and risk paying millions of euros in fines. It is not just Belgium who have this view, the Netherlands have had a very similar outlook. These two countries could be the first of many who go down this route. Canada and the UK are looking into how loot boxes are used within video games (including FIFA packs). This has naturally led to a rethink within EA on which approach to use within pack selling. The new tools to limit spending are yet to be announced in detail but EA has hinted at the approach they will take. They are going to implement a feature in one of the game updates which limits each function in FIFA 21. This includes limiting the in-game purchases which will make the game have less of a ‘pay to win’ feel to it, consequently reducing the exposure which children have to gambling. The game will also give details on how long a player has been playing, as well as how much they have spent on packs. This is very similar to some of the gambling regulations we see online casinos come up with, such as deposit limits and time reminders.
So where does that leave it for EA & loot boxes in general?
All in all, it seems as if EA is admitting there is a problem with the virtual packs in FIFA 21 being exposed to children. If there was no problem, it is unlikely that they would be taking any action to change what they do. However, it does make sense for them to address their critics by making suitable changes to help tackle the issues which they address. They have taken some positive action by giving players the chance to see how much time and money they invest in the game. This will stop users from overspending and more so, create a level playing field for all players. Although, this does not tackle the loot box issue head-on, as loot packs will remain in the game for people to buy for the foreseeable future.
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