EA has defended its use of FIFA loot boxes, describing the ability to spend real money on them as "fair". The company says that the FIFA Ultimate Team mode and player packs are a beloved part of FIFA and that spending real cash on them is "entirely optional".
What has EA said about FIFA loot boxes?
In a statement issued to Eurogamer, EA confirmed it would be sticking with the FIFA Ultimate Team mode in FIFA 23, as well as FUT Packs, which are essentially the game's version of loot boxes. An EA spokesperson says the studio "wholeheartedly believe[s]" that both the Ultimate Team mode and the loot boxes you can buy within it are "a part of FIFA that players love" because they reflect the excitement and strategy of creating your own squad. The spokesperson went on to say that giving players the option to spend real-world money on loot boxes is "fair".
According to EA, spending real money on loot boxes is "entirely optional" and the company doesn't encourage real-world spending over earning in-game rewards (although leaked documents from last year might beg to differ on that). EA also trots out the old line that most players don't spend on loot boxes, as well as the rather odd defense that loot boxes work the same whether you earn them in-game or pay for them. No mention is made of how difficult it is to earn loot boxes versus paying real money for them, nor is any mention made of the ethics of essentially putting young gamers in debt, but given that a lot of EA's revenue comes from loot boxes, that's to be expected.
EA has been repeatedly criticized over its use of loot boxes
EA probably has a particular bee in its bonnet when it comes to loot boxes. Last year, the company implemented the ability to preview certain loot boxes in FIFA 22 after being heavily penalized by countries like the Netherlands, Canada, and South Korea over its use of them. Despite this, it seems the company isn't going to back down over loot boxes. The upcoming FIFA 23 will still feature the Ultimate Team mode and you'll still be able to buy loot boxes for real money, it seems, so we'll likely have this discussion all over again when FIFA 23 drops this September.
Of course, it isn't just EA that's come under fire for including loot boxes in its games. A UK report (which the government chose not to act on) drew a "robust" link between loot boxes and gambling last year, and games like Clash Royale have even been the subject of lawsuits due to their loot boxes. It's this controversy surrounding loot box monetization that has led Germany to include loot boxes in its game rating system and Australia to propose restricting loot boxes to those over the age of 18, a move Belgium has already undergone due to reclassifying loot boxes as gambling. However, a report released last week suggested that restrictive loot box laws don't actually work and that the gaming world would do better to find a different way of regulating loot boxes.
It's also worth remembering that this decision comes after the UK government decided (thanks, PC Gamer) that there would be no change to the country's loot box laws last month, despite a 2020 call by the country's House of Lords to reclassify loot boxes as gambling. The report does not, however, let EA and other gaming companies off the hook over loot boxes.
While it does recommend industry self-regulation, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport says it "will not hesitate to consider legislative change" if the industry doesn't successfully fulfil a number of conditions. These include not allowing children to purchase loot boxes, ensuring that "spending controls and transparent information" are available in gmaes with loot boxes, and developing "better evidence and research" regarding the effect of loot boxes on gamers. As such, if EA doesn't fulfil those conditions with FIFA 23 loot boxes, this fight may not be over, and we may see the UK government take action over the game in future. We'll bring you more on this as soon as we get it.