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Class action lawsuit claims EA's dynamic difficulty tech encourages loot box spending

Fifa 21 footballer
(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, EA is in hot water over its loot boxes yet again, as a class action lawsuit has been filed against the publisher in the US District Court of Northern California. Plaintiffs Jason Zajonc, Danyael Williams, and Pranko Lozano claim EA is using the company's patented Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment technology to keep players buying lootboxes such as FIFA Ultimate Team packs. They also claim the technology has been used this way in several EA Sports games since 2017. For some of these games, EA has previously denied using Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment at all.

According the plaintiffs, Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment can be used to automatically adjust the challenge of a game so that players decide to buy player packs in order to make it enjoyable again. It does this, they say, by adjusting player stats to the point where they seem much weaker than their skills suggest. In FIFA, that might be by making them run slower, or their opponents faster, and causing them to miss passes. All of this would eventually lead to players purchasing player packs in search of something better.

"This is a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits EA to the detriment of EA Sports gamers, since Difficulty Adjusting Mechanisms make gamers believe their teams are less skilled than they actually are, leading them to purchase additional Player Packs in hopes of receiving better players and being more competitive," the lawsuit reads.

EA is accused of violating California consumer protection laws, false advertising, and unjust enrichment, and the plaintiffs seek restitution and corrective actions.

This isn't the first EA patent suspected of being a way to encourage spending: EA itself said that its Engagement Optimized Matchmaking system can be "tuned for various interests, e.g., in-game time, or even spending" in a research paper created with university researchers. EA categorically rejected the allegations made in this lawsuit, however.

"We believe the claims are baseless and misrepresent our games, and we will defend," a representative said in a statement. 

This lawsuit comes shortly after news of EA facing a €10 million fine over loot boxes in the Netherlands, which a court has found violate the country's gambling laws.