EA insists loot boxes are not gambling – but turns off in-game purchases for Battlefront II

  • Star Wars: Battlefront II launched without real money purchases
  • Developer stands firm on loot crate position despite backlash

Top game developer Electronic Arts is standing by its use of the loot box system in video games, telling Gamespot that “crate mechanics… are not gambling.”

WATCH: The trailer for the new Star Wars: Battlefront II video game that will now not have loot boxes or microtransactions.

Their position is backed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, who do not feel games with loot box purchases should be restricted to adults unless the law changes to deem loot crate buys are ‘gambling’.

However, governments in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK have separately launched investigations into whether the video game feature does raise the risk of problem gambling in players. If they feel there is reason for concern, they could impose fines or restrict access to any video game that uses the reward system.

While EA is standing firm on its position regarding the box purchases, it has responded to criticism from lawmakers and players by removing in-game box buys in its latest AAA release, Star Wars: Battlefront II. The game launched on Friday with no real money features.

Debate continues over whether loot boxes are gambling

Loot boxes are digital rewards which players can earn in video games. They contain items for use in the game, like weapons or power ups. These rewards are often issued at random and can vary greatly in value. Some games allow players to spend real money on additional boxes – and this is where concerns about gambling come in.

There are reports that some players, especially children, will spend large amounts of money trying to get the reward they want. The anticipation and thrill of opening a box and receiving a prize has been likened to playing slot machines – and it could produce the same addictive effects on vulnerable and highly susceptible young players.

However, game developers say the slot machine comparison is not accurate, and likened loot crates to trading cards instead.

The purchase of a crate always delivers something, but the value and usefulness may vary. “The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling,” an EA spokesperson insisted. “Players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game.”

Star Wars game launches without loot crate purchases

Despite EA’s strong defense of the loot box system, the developer opted at the last minute to pull the payment system from its Star Wars: Battlefront II game, which launched late last week.

This is pegged to be one of the top games this year, with huge demand right before the holiday season, and lots of youngsters will want to play the title. The Belgian Gaming Commission had previously selected this game, along with Blizzard’s Overwatch, as test subjects in its investigation into loot box gambling. Meanwhile, players had criticized the loot crate system for giving some players a distinct advantage over others.

In response, the developer has removed all paid-for aspects of the game. Reward crates will only be available for completing in-game tasks and missions.

EA does plan to return crate purchases to its games in the near future. For now, it says that having listened to players, it will turn the feature off to prevent “overshadowing an otherwise great game.”

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