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EA adamant loot boxes aren't gambling

Publisher pushes back after Belgian Gaming Commission finds fault with FIFA 18, talks game-streaming plans and Fortnite/PUBG phenomenon

Even though Electronic Arts pulled loot boxes from last year's Star Wars: Battlefront II, that decision has not deterred the company's plans going forward. In an investor call today, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson was adamant that loot boxes should not be considered gambling.

"We don't believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don't provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money," Wilson said.

Wilson's remarks come after the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) last month found EA and FIFA 18 in violation of national gambling laws.

"We're working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, [and] have established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling," Wilson continued.

One of the biggest pieces of news hinted at during the conference call wasn't about a specific game but how future technology might shape how games are delivered. "You've heard us talk a lot about subscription plus cloud gaming and the opportunity for those two things to fundamentally disrupt the way people access and enjoy games like nothing before," Wilson said.

"Everything we're building right now, we are thinking about a world where we will not be bound by device, we will not be bound by local computers or memory, but much of these experiences will exist in the cloud," Wilson said.

Although Wilson said the technology to stream games across devices is still 3-5 years away, EA is laying the groundwork now for a more connected future. "You should expect to see us between now and that time start to push more of our experiences, particularly ones with really large global communities, to be able to interact with experiences across devices," Wilson said.

He expects subscription-based streaming to be as disruptive in video games as it has been in the music and movie industries.

Like last week's Activision investor call, EA addressed Fortnite, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and the resulting battle royale mania, with EA CFO Blake Jorgensen saying, "We welcome innovators like Fortnite or PUBG that really help push everyone's thinking. We feel that 's great for the business as a whole."

Also similar to Activision, EA isn't especially worried that battle royale games are eating into its sales, either. "We don't feel like any one player or any one game from FIFA to Madden to Battlefield is going to capture 100% of the marketplace. It just doesn't happen that way. We haven't seen a giant [negative] impact [from Fortnite]," Jorgensen said.

He went on to echo similar thoughts as Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, saying, "We do think in the case of Fortnite it's helped grow the whole marketplace. And in particular, it's bringing younger people into the marketplace and younger people into first-person shooters and I think that's good for the long-run health of that category for all of us in the industry."

While EA didn't specify it was planning to jump into the battle royale arena itself, VentureBeat recently reported that DICE has been working on a battle royale mode for Battlefield V, with an expected launch date later this year.

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