Loot boxes have been a real source of trouble for Electronic Arts in recent months, beginning with a furor over their implementation last year in Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and growing from there into a wave of international criticism. Yet in a recent earnings call, EA chief executive Andrew Wilson said the company is going to "push on" with loot boxes, and challenged the common complaint that they are a form of gambling.
"As you might imagine, we're working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, many of whom we've been working with for some time and have evaluated and established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling," Wilson said in response to a question about possible changes to FIFA Ultimate Team microtransactions. "And we don't believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling."
(Seeking Alpha transcribed Wilson's statement as, "we don't believe that FIFA Ultimate Team – all loot boxes are gambling." The phone audio isn't clear, however, and it doesn't make sense for him to state that "all loot boxes are gambling" immediately after saying that FUT is not gambling. I've reached out to EA to clarify.)
Wilson explained that EA's position is based on the fact that players always receive a specific number of items in each FUT pack, and that it doesn't enable or allow players to cash out virtual-currency items for real-world money. "We also actively seek to eliminate that where it's going on in an illegal environment, and we work with regulators in various jurisdictions to achieve that," he said.
The bottom line is that EA is going to "continue to push forward" with microtransactions in games. "We're always thinking about our players. We're always thinking about how to deliver these types of experiences in a transparent, fun, fair, and balanced way for our players," Wilson said. "And we'll communicate with regulators around the world on it."
Belgium's Gaming Commission recently declared that the loot boxes in FIFA 18 contravene the country's gambling regulations, although ironically, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, the game that started the loot box uproar, was found to be in compliance with the law. The Netherlands has also warned that "enforcement action" could be taken against game publishers whose loot boxes violate regulations, and the US indicated earlier this year that it will take a closer look at them.