EA May Geo-Block Loot Boxes to Appease Regulators in Europe

EA is beginning to address concerns about microtransactions related to the FIFA ‘Ultimate Team’ mode as legal clouds gather overhead.

Short Patch Coming to Disable FUT Availability on Case-by-case Basis

Electronic Arts (EA) is taking a closer look at the terms and conditions related to the popular FIFA ‘Ultimate Team’ mode, or FUT for short, which has been slammed as a gambling-like mechanic by several watchdogs across Europe.

In a bid to placate belligerent regulation, EA is reportedly releasing a piece of code that will allow the company to disable the mode in certain geolocations and comply with regional gambling laws.

Last week, a Tweet by FUT Watch revealed that a solution is already being implemented. The Twitter account dedicated to the popular mode added a short message which read: “FIFA Ultimate Team is currently not accessible due to a demand from the authorities of your region.”

FUT and Compliance in Europe

Bringing the FIFA franchise to meet European countries’ regulatory standards has been a bit of a tough nut to crack for the publisher. FIFA had loot boxes and Ultimate Team mode content suspended in Europe by the Belgian and Dutch regulators over the past several years, and faces multiple legal actions.

Loot boxes have long been considered a sensitive topic, and recently, Scottish lawmaker Ronnie Cowan urged parents in the country and the United Kingdom to refrain from purchasing video games containing loot boxes. The issue is likely to make it into the UK’s pending review of the Gambling Act.

FUT has been linked to addiction in individual cases, but not as a form of addiction per se. In one case, one Jonathan Peniket spoke to the BBC and said he had spent £3,000 or roughly $4,000 of his savings on FUT packs, the digital containers that release randomized prizes.

Trouble in Europe, Trouble around the World

EA is taking fire from all sides, with the Dutch gambling regulator, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), slapping the publisher with a €5 million financial sanction that the company is now going to contest.

The regulator’s ruling argued that gamers were often too young and susceptible to addictive practices, or to develop an addiction as a result of engaging with games that have gambling-like mechanisms.

In France, two lawsuits have been brought up against EA, alleging that the microtransactions system used by the developers was a form of unregulated gambling markets and had to be classified as such, and drawing fire from regulators.

Belgium has also ordered EA to stop promoting loot boxes and similar mechanics in the country, but has not entirely suspended FUT purchases. Instead, the packs can be bought with FUT coins as opposed to real money.

Valve, the publishing house and developer behind games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, has faced similar issues over the use of skins in CS: GO, and has solved the problem by making it impossible for players to obtain any real money value from their ownership of digital assets.

While EA has been reluctant to let go of a successful business model others, such as Epic Games’ boss Tim Sweeney has been unambiguous about the fact that loot boxes cause harm and more action is necessary.

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