The discussion of whether loot boxes are a form of gambling or not has been going around for years. Kevin Ramirez is the latest one to tackle this on-going discussion. The California resident is suing EA (Electronic Arts) for damages over loot boxes in Madden NFL and FIFA titles.
After spending $600 on Ultimate Team Packs, Ramirez sues for $5 million, intending to have the case certified as a class action. Ultimately, this brings us to the question: Will the lawsuit change anything?
- Kevin Ramirez from California sues EA for $5 million over loot boxes damages.
- The on-going discussion on whether loot boxes are a form of gambling continues.
- Could lawsuits like this one mean the end of loot boxes in the future?
Kevin Ramirez vs. Electronic Arts
California resident Kevin Ramirez is the latest person to sue Electronic Arts (EA) for manipulating him to spend $600 on Ultimate Team Packs in Madden NFL. The lawsuit also mentions other EA titles like FIFA. He is suing the company for $5 million in damages.
The Kevin Ramirez vs. Electronic Arts lawsuit was filed on August 13th, 2020, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Ramirez claims he has been induced to spend money on random-chance possibilities of winning valuable players for his teams in FIFA and Madden NFL.
The lawsuit points out that:
The EA Ultimate Team Packs have all the Las Vegas-style slot machine hallmarks, including the psychological aspects to encourage and create addiction. Moreover, under California law, they constitute illegal ‘slot machines or devices’ when played on a console, computer, mobile phone, tablet, or other similar devices.
What are Loot Boxes?
If you’ve ever played games like EA’s FIFA or Madden NFL, you have probably seen loot boxes. As you’re playing, you get a notification that you can buy your way to a better character, player, avatar, or any powerful feature that could boost your chances of winning for a certain amount of money.
In simpler words, they are in-game rewards that give you an advantage during your gameplay, for which you have to pay to advance in the game.
The Gamble on Loot Boxes
The controversial part is, even when you pay to get your reward, there’s the element of surprise. Only after you’ve paid can you see what’s inside the box. Therefore, you cannot know forehand which features or character you’ve won, and that’s what makes people think loot boxes are, indeed, a form of gambling. Many think that some form of responsible gaming should be promoted in these video games.
Children in the Mix
In 2019, the UK also tackled the question, after the UK Children Commissioner Anne Longfield called for action. The Commissioner called for loot boxes to be regulated as gambling, after seeing the results of a research which showed that 93% of the UK children played video games. A large percent of them were spending hundreds of pounds trying to get a good player from the pack, or a better feature.
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission monitors the situation. In the 2019 Video Game Loot Box Workshop, they concluded that loot boxes are deceptive and manipulative, encourage spending by using social pressure between players, and lack age control and transparency in terms of odds.
Even after drawing this conclusion, the odds of FTC successfully regulating loot boxes are small. They promised to make further efforts to clarify the blurred lines between loot boxes and gambling, but that’s all they could do for now.
Do Loot Boxes Have a Future?
Considering loot boxes have been a hot topic for years, and no one has still found the solution to the problem, the Ramirez vs. Electronic Arts case may end up in the opposite direction than planned.
EA will probably attempt to have the case dismissed. Even if not, and a judge decides that loot boxes are indeed illegal gambling, many other less contentious products may suffer.
The real issue with loot boxes is psychological manipulation. This element is considered as harmful as the lack of luck associated with gambling. Should EA find a solution for this, loot boxes might have a future. If not, similar lawsuits are to be expected, which can eventually lead to the ban of loot boxes.