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Electronic Arts responds to DCMS committee calls for loot box regulation

Publisher "doesn't agree with all conclusions" but will continue dialogue with UK government

EA has responded to calls for the UK government to ban loot boxes in games for children and introduce regulation around the controversial monetisation mechanic.

In its report published earlier today, the DCMS committee also urged the government to introduce a games industry tax to investigate the harmful effects of gaming and push PEGI into adding gambling content warnings for games with loot boxes, raising the age limit to reflect this.

In a statement issued to GamesIndustry.biz, an Electronic Arts spokesperson said: "We have reviewed and are closely considering the findings of the DCMS Committee report.  While we don't agree with all of the conclusions and recommendations in the report, we do take our responsibilities to players of all ages very seriously. 

"We have an ongoing commitment to player safety and well-being whenever they are playing our games or engaging in our communities.  We will continue to look at how we can contribute to productive research and solutions for the topics raised in this report, and we look forward to continuing our ongoing dialogue with the UK government."

GamesIndustry.biz has also reached out to Activison/King, Nintendo and PEGI about the government's recommendations. Epic Games, 2K Games and Ubisoft declined to comment.

EA is one of the many games firms who was invited to take part in the committee's inquiry into immersive and addictive technology, but arguably struggled to justify its monetisation mechanics in a way that satisfied MPs.

The publisher even attempted to reposition them as "surprise mechanics", with vice president for legal Kerry Hopkins assuring they are "quite ethical."

The controversy around loot boxes started with Electronic Arts and the system it trialled with Star Wars: Battlefront II's multiplayer beta. The progression-hindering dependence on loot boxes was later revised for the final game because the mechanic was dropped entirely just before launch. Paid loot boxes were fully removed from the game months later.

The backlash against Star Wars' use of the mechanic -- and loot boxes in similar AAA games -- caught the attention of politicians around the world, to the point where both Belgium and the Netherlands have introduced their own forms of regulation, forcing EA and other publishers to alter or remove their titles from those markets.

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Latest comments (6)

Harry Debelius Localization Project Manager, Keywords Studios10 days ago
As if they would say anything else after the public scorn that was that hearing. It was painful to watch Kerry defend Loot Boxes with no arguments, leaving MPs flabbergasted with her answers.

If the industry can't behave responsibly when searching for revenue generators, it should not be self-regulated. Period.

Still amazed that they manage to keep their face straight while defending this incredibly unethical approach.
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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch10 days ago
@Harry Debelius: Why is it unethical? You buy a thing where you know you don't know the outcome, it's all very upfront. I fail to see where the unethical element lies.
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Orochimaruh Gaming since '82 10 days ago
@Harry Debelius: The videogame industry is too big (revenue, geographical coverage, number of customers) to be left unregulated. Regulation is needed and needs to be enforced.
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Harry Debelius Localization Project Manager, Keywords Studios10 days ago
@Ian Griffiths: Unethical it is when this is sold to kids. I personally have no problem with an adult rated game to have these mechanics, despite them being overly abusive, but seeing these in games that kids play seems outright wrong. My main issue is how the PEGI code seems to circumvent it's own rules by not including some clearly exploitative monetization mechanics as gambling, when it's painfully clear that it's really really close to the real thing.

Loot boxes with no real cash involved = not a fan but ok, still think it should be rated higher than it currently is
Loot boxes with real cash = Should not be rated 3+

Just my personal opinion.
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Orochimaruh Gaming since '82 10 days ago
@Ian Griffiths: It's unethical to add predatory money grabbing tactics and gambling mechanics, to video games that can be played by children. It's not all very upfront when parents are greeted with amounts of money spent on loot boxes. It's shady and needs to be regulated.
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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch10 days ago
@Orochimaruh: What about loot boxes makes them predatory? They're available to everyone in the respective games, they're not hidden and are rarely targetted.

All economic activity is essentially 'money grabbing', it's all intended to encourage people to spend money. Ultimately, children don't have much money so these games don't actually target them. There are parental controls that parents can use to turn off in-app purchases. They can also tell their children when to stop playing and even supervise them when they do play.

I don't see why I should suffer and not be allowed to buy things in a game, or to buy things for my kids in a game if I so choose, just because other people lack the faculties to parent responsibly.
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