Electronic Arts and Star Wars Battlefront II may have a gambling problem. This isn't the sort of gambling problem that can ruin their lives. It isn't the sort of gambling problem that will cost them their house (read: headquarters) or cause family problems.
No, this gambling problem is different because Electronic Arts are the ones being investigated. EA is being investigated as the company illegally facilitating gambling. Yesterday it was revealed that Belgian authorities are investigating Star Wars Battlefront II to determine if the loot boxes within the game constitute as gambling.
EA Claim Star Wars Battlefront II Mechanics "are not Gambling"
In Belgium, companies require a license to provide gambling. In Belgium, a game of chance is classed as gambling. The Chancellor Commission's director, Peter Naessens, has stated that the fact that when an item that can directly improve your game is included in these random boxes, it isn't possible without a license from the authority.
As such, the simple fact that star cards (read: loot boxes) in Star Wars Battlefront II offer a chance for particular items that directly improve gameplay could very easily place them in that category.
The reason behind this distinction is because "They may cause people to become addicted to gambling and cause them to lose a great deal of money. For this reason, a number of protective measures have been implemented to protect players against these sorts of potential risks".
EA have responded to this investigation. Upon being contacted by Gamespot, EA have stated the opinion that Loot Boxes are not gambling. The full statement towards Gamespot says "Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game".
What Could Happen?
Should the ruling go against EA, it will be a landmark result. It could also directly impact a large number of titles. These titles can include Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Forza 7, Call of Duty: WWII and Overwatch. An argument could be made to not include some titles that only include cosmetic and not gameplay enhancing items. For example, Overwatch crates only include cosmetic items, which could place it in a safe space should the investigation target more titles.
Should EA be found guilty of this, a fine could be placed on the company of hundreds of thousands of Euros or a complete ban of selling the title in Belgium could be put in place. The largest effect could be the knock-on effect it has should other countries gambling commissions decide to look into the loot boxes of video games.
Putting impartiality aside, I hope the eventual ruling is that loot boxes are a gambling system. I personally despise them and the predation of customers by these companies. This is something I'll be covering in a larger piece in the near future, stating my arguments behind my opinion.
Until then, I'd be more than happy to know what your opinions are below.