A new class-action lawsuit stipulates that Electronic Arts (EA) has breached The Criminal Code of Canada by running an “illegal and unlicensed gaming system” through loot boxes.
EA Games Looks at a New Loot Boxes Lawsuit
This is not Electronic Arts (EA)’s first legal rodeo after the game publisher has previously faced criticism from the community and governments about the way it utilizes loot boxes. A true controversy stirred up back in 2017 when the company launched Star Wars Battlefront 2, a beloved video game set in the Star Wars universe.
At the time, Battlefront 2 loot boxes gutted the gameplay, allowing anyone who had paid for them to obtain enhancements and major characters that would have otherwise taken hundreds of hours to secure through good, old-fashioned gameplay.
Often typecast as villains, EA did issue an official apology in 2018, tersely but honestly admitting fault, “We got it wrong.”
EA has been compliant with how different jurisdictions treat loot boxes, too, even though the company once likened the digital containers to “Kinder Eggs,” with a special “surprise mechanic” embedded into it.
In any eventuality, EA had to suspend the sale of loot boxes for FIFA 18 in Belgium and the Netherlands, following a decision by local judiciary.
Coming under Heavy Fire in Canada
A new class-action lawsuit has been filed against EA in Canada, disputing the nature of loot boxes and whether they constitute gambling.
According to Mathew P. Good and Anthony Vecchio, both counsels on the case, plaintiffs in Ontario, British Columbia, have targeted not just one title, but over 60 games that Canadian customers have been in the habit of buying loot boxes for over the past 12 or so years.
The lawsuit names popular titles, including the NBA and FIFA franchises, two of the most popular sports simulators in gaming history, alongside Apex Legends, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, Star Wars, Mass Effects, and Battlefield, all published by EA.
According to the plaintiffs, loot boxes are an illegal and unlicensed gaming system embedded into the game. Now, they are seeking repayment for the amount total they have spent over the years on loot boxes and want to prohibit the availability of loot boxes in video games.
Peer Pressure to Purchase Loot Boxes
The lawsuit’s argumentation is understandable. Plaintiffs argue that loot boxes are no different than slot machines. In the official documentation submitted to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the plaintiffs mention that “though many games do publish the probabilities of receiving certain tiers of items, there is no guarantee a person will receive the item they want.”
The plaintiffs are determined to argue against another popular line of reasoning mounted by publishers, i.e. most items and skins contained in loot boxes are just cosmetic improvements and do not directly impact the gameplay. However, according to the lawsuit, in games such as Apex Legends, certain purchasable items can give players an unfair advantage over other people.
Even more interestingly, the plaintiffs argue there is prejudice against players who haven’t made the necessary purchases and have stuck, for example, with a default avatar. In another part of the lawsuit, the accusation reads: “there is therefore an incentive for players to purchase multiple loot boxes in order to obtain more valuable and more prestigious rare cosmetic items.”
The defendants have operated an unlicensed gaming system through loot boxes, something punishable by the Criminal Code of Canada.
This is not the first time EA has been on the receiving end of complaints regarding its loot boxes policy, including a class-action lawsuit filed in August in the Northern District of California, arguing that the Ultimate Team mode was a violation of gambling law.
Do Loot Boxes Really Constitute Gambling?
Loot boxes are a hotly-debated topic in multiple jurisdictions. After they were prohibited in Belgium and the Netherlands, calls to revisit the nature of these digital containers were heard in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.
Even Apple was sued over loot boxes in the Apple Store. In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords has urged loot boxes to be reclassified as a form of gambling, something that the UK Gambling Commission has avoided calling them.
Meanwhile in Australia, a House of Representatives Committee called for restrictions on loot boxes again in March. As the status of loot boxes stands, they can go either way.
Valve Corporation was embroiled in a major lawsuit back in 2016 with another class-action lawsuit stipulating that the developer had been supporting black-market gambling, which the company vehemently denied.
That led to a major shake-up of skins betting and suspended many credible services that were used by fans to try and win additional skins.