EA surpasses milestones for online notoriety once again.
Last week, at a hearing with the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the company adamantly insisted that loot boxes are not as they are, but are instead “surprise mechanics.” It was then further explained that these “mechanics” are “quite ethical and fun,” and are definitely “not gambling.”
The hearing in question was a meeting with the gaming companies EA and Epic Games. The primary subject of the discussion was the questionable ethics of both companies’ business and employment practices over the last few years.
Kerry Hopkins, the vice president of EA’s legal and government affairs, gave the explanation mentioned above as a response to the eventual query about Ultimate Teams, the loot box-type purchasable packages of one of the company’s games, FIFA.
The somewhat dubious methods of implementation of loot boxes are currently one of the primary contentious issues among gaming-related business practices as of late. EA, being one of the most prominent companies centered on this matter, has been under fire by the online gaming community due to several backlashes. These negative opinions all stem from their unethical and predatory business practices concerning digital products.
At best, the company is seen as attempting to ride the moral “no loot boxes” bandwagon, despite arguably starting the issue in the first place. And at worst, like what happened at this recent hearing, the company is trying to rebrand loot boxes as something that would be seen as potentially less harmful.
The switch of EA’s business model to mainly provide DLC content was even justified, as due to the current gaming market supposedly having less interest in complete, story-driven, or single-player game experiences. A technically subjective statement that was objectively disproven by massively popular titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or even the more recent Devil May Cry 5.
To complicate matters, concerning the rebranding claim, Kerry Hopkins even elaborated that “surprise mechanics” are no different than Kinder Eggs — a chocolate product that has random toys inside them. YouTuber YongYea strongly points out that this is a false analogy, being that such products are direct purchases, without the typical connections and requirements to a specific game that defines what loot boxes are designed for.
The sheer absurdity of the claim loot boxes are “surprise mechanics” has quickly earned its place online as a growing internet meme. Various users online would often reference this claim with their spin on the term using an entirely different word or sets of phrases. Usually, the derivative examples show a tinge of the same kind of absurd argument that the original had, mocking the altered term for comedic effect.
Reddit, of course, was as usual already ahead of this curve:
To give a recap of EA’s loot boxes controversy, the primary instigation of the subject sparked upon the discovery of heavy pay-to-win mechanics in its then-upcoming game Star Wars Battlefront II on October 2017.
The company then had to deal with a lot of complaints from various people and groups regarding the unfair progression system of the game. This eventually escalated to the Belgian Gaming Commission launching an investigation as to whether loot boxes in games are actually a form of gambling.
Since then, the use of loot boxes was often stigmatized as a type of cheap business tactic. This is specially made apparent when implemented on already fully paid games (such as FIFA), as opposed to free-to-play (F2P) titles that are structurally meant to collect revenue in such manner as part of its in-game services (mobile games, for example).
Any gaming company today publicly denouncing its use were often lauded. Companies heavily relying on such products as part of its business model, such as EA, try to downplay their negative image. And as the entire world has witnessed, even to the point of illogical absurdity.