*The following is the sole opinion of the writer and not of KeenGamer as a whole
Putting their proverbial foot down and officially drawing a legal line in the sand, Belgian government has decreed that lootbox culture is in fact not okay. They dare to defy the apathetic bias of other governments and say, yes, lootbox culture is in fact gambling. After all, pretty much 100% of disgruntled anti-lootbox gamers will agree that parting with money for a randomised reward is without a doubt – gambling. In the passing of this law in Belgium and in hindsight of Battlefront II, EA might as well have painted a big red target on their heads for the legal battle that is about to go down. On the one side we have a massive corporation who clearly thinks they have enough money to be above the law, akin to the various other corrupt entities we see today. On the other, we have an actual world government with actual laws that must be adhered to. For a massive corporation to simply sit down, stare them in face and say “no” is an affront to that country’s legal system. As such, the result of this battle is not just about gaming and the rights of consumers. It’s also an arena inside of which the victor will be determined as an entity that has ultimate power. That victor should not be Andrew Wilson and his gaming company over an entire government.
In a way, it’s hardly surprising that EA are so flagrantly advertising their self proclaimed world dominance. In the financial year of 2017, FIFA 18 made $1.68 billion in microtransaction revenue alone. FIFA, like 2K’s NBA series of games is partly the reason we now feel like sports titles are synonymous with microtransaction potpourri, shoved into every corner of the game possible. I only thank the Star Wars community for being passionate enough to not put up with it. Although, when EA is making this money from one title alone, what are they thinking? They’re likely thinking how easily they can duplicate this profit in the grand scheme of things, by releasing another sports title with the same predatory practices. It’s all very well and good to say “buyer beware – you don’t have to”, but one chap took advantage of the recent GDPR laws that states customers can retrieve any and all information a company may hold for them. This man got a good hard slap in the face from our old friend reality check, when he learned he’d actually spent $10,000 in two years with FIFA’s Ultimate Team features.
Let’s face it. There’s enough corporate greed in the world and there is no reason that should not extend to the games industry. When a “little government across the sea” (EA has not actually said this) dares to tell the EA demigods “no”, with piles of green paper fading away into non-existence, of course they’re going to fight back. Of course they’re going to say “yes, OK, we’re more powerful than governments and we’re going to risk everything trying to prove it”. EA are in the deepest darkest hole of a PR nightmare that they have ever experienced. They are renowned for adopting development studios and eviscerating them from the inside out. They are renowned for being the worst company in America to work for several years running. They are renowned for not giving a flying hoot for their consumers. They are renowned for destroying the presence of Star Wars in videogames, despite a deal with Disney. Most recently, they are becoming renowned for killing Battlefield. All things every other games publisher in the world would quiver in their boots at the thought of. The very last thing they needed to do now is continue not giving a hoot about well…anything, by saying to a government “You made our stuff illegal… but we’re going to keep doing it – do your worst”. The weakest, string bean, finest lined argument CEO Andrew Wilson has to bring to court with him (and his only one I might add) is that with lootboxes, players know “how many items they will get”…
So surprise surprise, EA is now officially under a criminal investigation. So let’s reframe this. EA is under criminal investigation for wanting to fight the corner that nickel and diming players, in extreme cases as much as $10,000, is not only okay as a business practice but also a “fact of life in the gaming development world these days” (EA actually did say this), clearly clinging onto an audience that knows nothing and has nothing to do with videogames in the hope that they will believe them where everybody else will not. Does Spiderman have microtransactions? God of War? Any successful single player title for that matter. Sure these probably make less money in the long run but still, tens of millions of dollars in release week just isn’t enough for EA.
In the Belgian government’s final and official decision to launch a criminal investigation into EA, what pushed them into this extremity was FIFA 18. They deemed FIFA 18’s microtransactions as not being transparent enough to comply with their new lootbox regulations. As an answer to this, they suggested to EA that lootboxes could be modified to display clear labels of how this is indeed gambling along with percentage markers to indicate the odds of a rare drop. This would of course, damn the very “low odds” kind of formula in lootbox systems that pushes people to spend in the first place. So of course EA didn’t like this. For now, it is unclear just what kind of repercussions EA may face in this new legal battle. Only that everyone is going to go on thinking they’re a bunch of dicks with a Bond villain for their CEO. Quietly, I dare say a lot of gamers out there are hoping – great and severe repercussions. It’s about time EA were knocked off their perch after about a good five years of simply doing things people do not like or want.
In other mental lootbox news, associated with Belgium rattling corporate cages, Take Two Interactive, parent company of 2K Games have somehow seen fit to beg the Belgian populace to fight back against this ruling. As if to suggest that spending potentially hundreds more on a product they spent $60 on is somehow good for them. Perhaps now with this new law of theirs, they’ll be missing out on a “sense of pride and accomplishment”.
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