Electronic Arts was currently controversial for casino-like practices
Worldwide, American video game developer Electronic Arts is one of the biggest names in the video game industry. So far, however, the company has had little connection with the casino industry. However, some more recent practices of the developer's newer games have come under fire for their increasing similarity to casino games. The situation has become so urgent that French and American politicians have begun voicing their concerns. Regulators have also taken notice in both Belgium and the Netherlands and have subsequently ordered an investigation into these practices.
Controversy start with Star Wars Battlefront II
The controversy began on November 17th, 2017 with the release of the video game Star Wars Battlefront II. Despite generally warm feedback from the press, players were less enthusiastic and the many video game websites also reflected this sentiment in poor player ratings. It was not the quality of the game that was the problem but it was more to do with the loot box. Here, players have the option to buy better weapons and other items with real money. Further exasperating the frustration was that the content of the boxes was unknown and so the players did not know if they would receive something helpful or useless. A knock-on effect was that players willing to pay more had a natural advantage in the game over other players who did not buy loot boxes. This was obviously because of the enhanced weapons.
Investigations launched in different countries
The controversy quickly grew louder and caught the attention of politicians around the world. A case in point was a French Senator Jérôme Durain who called on the Secretary of State for digital affairs and the regulator of online games to comment on this situation. The Hawaii State Senator Chris Lee outright condemned the practice and said they bore too close a resemblance to an online casino. In addition, the Belgian and Dutch Gambling Commission have also launched their own investigation into Star Wars Battlefront II.
A temporary halt on microtransactions
In the face of this controversy, Disney, which owns the rights to the Star Wars license, underestimated the amount of negative publicity prior to the release of the Eighth Episode of the Galactic Saga, which was then communicated to Electronic Arts. After pressure from the public, the political risks and the dissatisfaction of Disney, Electronic Arts then announced the cessation of these micro-transactions for loot boxes.
Other games in the line of fire
While the story should have ended there, it seems Electronic Arts did not learn their lesson. While initially only the game Star Wars Battlefront II was involved in the controversy, it now seems that the controversy has spread to other games from EA which includes other hit games, such as the Need for Speed and FIFA 18.
Will Electronic Arts continue in this direction? What will be the outcome? Will such games be banned for minors due to casino-like characteristics? These are all questions that we don't know at the moment but we can only look to the future to see how things will unfold.