In the hours leading up to its decision to suspend Star Wars Battlefront 2’s loot crate spending, EA has argued that the system is not a form of gambling.
This is despite the news that two European countries are investigating just that question.
Gamasutra reports that Belgian Gaming Commission general director Peter Naessens is investigating whether the systems found in games such as Battlefront II and Overwatch qualify as gambling. Eurogamer elsewhere reports that authorities in the Netherlands are doing exactly the same.
"The crate mechanics of Star Wars: Battlefront II are not gambling," EA told GameSpot. "Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game."
Should it be declared that loot boxes were a form of gambling – and then, of course, one that is being potentially targeted at minors – the repercussions for the video games industry would be severe. Blizzard faced a similar situation in China and was forced to reveal the odds on loot box contents, but this could just be the tip of the iceberg.
The UK government responded to a question on the issue last month, but its stance remains somewhat ambiguous.
“The government recognise the risks that come from increasing convergence between gambling and computer games. The Gambling Commission is keeping this matter under review and will continue to monitor developments in the market,” Tory MP at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport Tracey Crouch said.
“Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.
“Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the core objectives of the regulation of gambling in Great Britain and a priority for the government. The Gambling Commission have a range of regulatory powers to take action where illegal gambling is taking place. Earlier this year the Gambling Commission successfully prosecuted the operators of a website providing illegal gambling facilities for in-game items which was accessible to children - the first regulator in the world to bring such an action.”