Representatives from Electronic Arts and Epic Games addressed the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee earlier today as part of the committee’s discussion on ‘immersive and addictive technologies.’
The entire two and a half hour-long session can be viewed online, and features both EA and Epic Games fielding questions about loot boxes, ethical game design, and the responsibilities game makers do or don’t have toward how people play their games.
While Epic was more reluctant to answer questions surrounding things like average player spend and playtime, Electronic Arts was typically more forthcoming with answers and anecdotes involving how players engage with their games.
When the discussion turned to loot boxes (a topic picked up by PCGamesN), Electronic Arts’ VP of legal and government affairs Kerry Hopkins insisted that the monetization mechanic isn’t the same as gambling, and said that, in the case of FIFA, EA refers to the system as “surprise mechanics” rather than loot boxes.
That stance on loot boxes’ relationship to gambling, as Hopkins points out, aligns with previous decisions from both the UK and Australian gambling commissions, but puts the definition at odds with gambling regulators in the Netherlands and Belgium. EA has notably been one of the companies that has had to alter certain aspects of its games in those countries to stay on the up-and-up with local commissions.
Despite regional regulation hiccups, Hopkins says that EA believes the way it implemented ‘packs’ in FIFA Ultimate Team “is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.”
“If you go to a [store that sells a lot of toys], and you do a search for surprise toys, what you’ll find is that this is something that people enjoy," said Hopkins. "They enjoy surprises. It's something that’s been part of toys for years, whether it’s been a part of toys for years, whether it's Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise.”
“Instead we think it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a very healthy way and like the element of the surprise,” she continued.