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EA faces yet another class-action lawsuit connected to loot boxes

Update: EA calls claims "baseless," says they "misrepresent our games"

EA is facing another class-action lawsuit in the United States connected to its Ultimate Team loot boxes, this time focused on its alleged use of Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment.

In a suit filed in the US District Court of Northern California, plaintiffs Jason Zajonc, Danyael Williams, and Pranko Lozano accuse EA of using its patented Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment technology in three of its EA Sports franchises -- Madden NFL, FIFA, and NHL -- across all games ranging back to the 2017 versions.

The plaintiffs say that EA uses this technology -- whose stated intention is to allow AI to adjust difficulty on the fly to keep players from becoming either too bored or frustrated with the challenge level of a game, keeping them playing longer -- to push players into purchasing more loot boxes in the form of Player Packs, saying that it effectively makes even high stat players not play as well as they should.

Additionally, the suit notes that EA uses this technology without disclosing it to players, noting that EA has denied its use in the past in multiple games mentioned in the suit.

"EA's undisclosed use of Difficulty Adjusting Mechanisms deprives gamers who purchase Player Packs of the benefit of their bargains because EA's Difficulty Adjusting Mechanisms, rather than only the stated ranking of the gamers' Ultimate Team players and the gamers' relative skill, dictates, or at least highly influences the outcome of the match," the lawsuit reads.

"This is a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits EA to the detriment of EA Sports gamers, since Difficulty Adjusting Mechanisms make gamers believe their teams are less skilled than they actually are, leading them to purchase additional Player Packs in hopes of receiving better players and being more competitive."

The plaintiffs say that EA's actions violate the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, Unfair Competition Law, and qualify as unjust enrichment.

The group is seeking the court to compel EA to stop misrepresenting Player Packs and Cards, including a corrective advertising campaign, and restitution of funds acquired by any practices the court deems unlawful.

Notably, in 2017 EA was also granted a separate patent on a matchmaking algorithm that has a similarly stated aim of keeping players engaged for longer, which was met with criticism that it could be used to push players toward microtransactions. It is unclear whether or not this technology is being used in any EA Sports games at this time.

EA is currently facing two other lawsuits connected to Ultimate Team, one in the United States alleging the mode breaks California state gambling laws, and one in Canada accusing EA of running "an unlicensed, illegal gaming system through their loot boxes."

Update: When asked for comment on the allegations, EA provided the following statement:

"We believe the claims are baseless and misrepresent our games, and we will defend."

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Rebekah Valentine avatar
Rebekah Valentine: Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.
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