Several media outlets dedicated to gaming journalism have noticed an EA spokesperson attempting to re-designate loot boxes as ‘surprise mechanics’. This strange, new nomenclature was uttered by the VP of legal and governmental affairs at EA, Kerry Hopkins, when asked if loot boxes are an ethical feature of video games.
Hopkins was responding at the time to a question posed by a representative of the Digital Culture, Media, and Sport Committee at a recent hearing in England. Both EA and Epic Games were given the chance to defend loot boxes in their games against the widespread claims that their inclusion encourages unregulated gambling.
EA’s VP then stated that the loot boxes can be likened to children’s toys, such as Kinder Joy eggs, in that the element of surprise is the reason why gamers are eagerly purchasing loot boxes. As such, Hopkins stated that her company has no qualms about the ethical concerns of loot boxes, and that players truly enjoy them in games.
Both pundits and the community at large have responded with considerable backlash against these claims made by Hopkins. Most respondents have been quick to point out that EA has never referred to loot boxes as ‘surprise mechanics’, meaning that Hopkins’s claim on the element of surprise is dubious at best.
Moreover, the sentiment from the gaming community at large has been that EA is simply trying to circumnavigate the issue of gambling disguised as game mechanics, which said loot boxes enable. Many contend that re-branding loot boxes under a different name is a desperate attempt by EA to isolate their nefarious microtransaction system from a recent crackdown on bans.
Both Belgium and the Netherlands have thus far deemed loot boxes to be illegal, with other countries such as Australia attempting to bring these kinds of in-game monetisation services under strict legal regulations.
The full stream of the hearing has been made available here.