When Electronic Arts said it wasn’t gonna repeat its mistakes with Star Wars Battlefront 2, I cynically suggested that Electronic Arts was talking about getting caught, that they believe that’s what the mistake was, not putting glorified gambling systems in Star Wars Battlefront 2, but just doing it in a way that would piss everybody off. And Electronic Arts’s android-ish CEO, Andrew Wilson, has pretty much confirmed it, because he’s recently said that FIFA, the game series they haven’t gotten in trouble over yet, alongside other Ultimate Team modes such as Madden, and NHL, and NBA, is going to keep its Ultimate Team packs, because it’s such a huge moneymaker for them. In fact, the micro transactions in Ultimate Team eclipse everything else they bring in.
So naturally and pretty much as I expected, they’re not going to give up the glorified gambling, the loot box bullshit, that’s in their sports game. “We’re going to continue pushing forward,” said ‘Android’ Wilson. “We’re always thinking about our players.” “We’re always thinking about how to deliver these types of experiences in a transparent, fun, fair, and balanced way for our players — — and we’ll continue to work with regulators on that.” I was stifling a laugh, while I was reading most of that, because every time EA talks about how it thinks about its players, and how it’s working on transparency and fairness, It’s… well, it’s just comedy coming from EA. FIFA, of course, was one of the games implicated in the recent Netherlands and Belgium loot box investigations, the ones that concluded that some games with loot boxes in are gambling, with the games most aggressively shone under the spotlight, being the ones that have some way that the players can cash out, so to speak, they can take the in-game items they win, and sell them… for money or other services, to other players. Kind of like what players can do with… oh… FIFA.
Although EA said it’s: “aware of people doing that”, and it doesn’t allow it, and it’s working on ways to stop it, which doesn’t really matter, because that’s not what the studies were talking about. You can disapprove of it all day long, but can you actually stop it? It’s like Steam’s shut down a handful of CS: GO gambling websites, but certainly not all of them. In fact, it’s really easy to find them, loads of them… loads of them!
It doesn’t matter whether EA ‘allows it’ or not. If people can do it, their winnings in a loot box have cash value, matey boy. But let’s listen to Wilson explain, how FIFA isn’t gambling: “First, players always receive a specified number of items in every FUT pack.” “Second, we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out digital items or virtual currency for real-world money.” “And there’s no real-world value assigned to in-game items.” Yes, there is, yes there is. Plenty!
You fool! Wilson also claims that EA is working with industry associations and regulators across the world, and that many of them have said that FIFA Ultimate Team isn’t gambling, which of course, is something you’d 100 per cent expect the CEO of EA to say. “We work with various regulators on that.” I mean, so long as you tell people you’re ‘working on it’, that’s usually good enough, for these companies, they’ll just say: ‘Oh, yeah, we’re working on a problem’.
And then they’ll just hope you forget about it, pretty much how Bungie kept telling everyone they were working out their problems with Destiny 2, until everybody forgot about Destiny 2… But anyway, you know my stance on loot boxes by now, I would imagine: I’m not a fan. I don’t know if you’ve ever picked that up(!) And I’ve explained several times before that if regulators want to regulate loot boxes, I’m not saying I want them to, I’m saying if THEY want to; then law needs to catch up to technology. And in fact I do believe that certain loot boxes and certain gambling mechanics in video games, are just as capable of taking someone for a ride as actual casinos.
And I don’t think that’s too extreme a statement to say. And I believe that: the current legal definition of gambling allows CEO’s like Andrew Wilson to cravenly hide behind the definition. And well, pretty much like what he’s done here: “Oh, you can’t cash it out, so it’s not gambling.” And that way he can ignore all of the psychology behind the mechanics in the game, he can ignore how compulsive behavior can be encouraged, can be enabled, by these sorts of games.
They don’t have to go into any of that, they don’t have to go into the clear seedy side of gambling mechanics in games, because they’ve got that definition to just hide behind. Like a mewling kid, hiding behind mummy’s apron. Now a few weeks ago, I asked the question: “Are Triple-A loot boxes done?” And some people said, I was a bit premature about that, and some people – on, like, the Jim Sterling subreddit, and stuff – reacting to this news, have said that I jumped the gun, by saying that. However in my defense: I did make allowances for both FIFA, and just Activision/Blizzard as a whole, because they’re just rotten fuckers.
I do still fully believe, and I think the past few months of releases have confirmed, that a lot of publishers have super cold feet when it comes to loot boxes and these sorts of gambling mechanics. I didn’t necessarily expect FIFA to do away with them, for the reasons I gave in that video I published, that Jimquisition episode. It does make them a huge amount of money. And only the Daily Mail, like, only UK tabloids talk about people blowing obscene amounts of money in FIFA. That’s why they keep doing it and have gotten away with it as long as they have, without too much criticism, and why Star Wars: Battlefront 2 of course exploded instead of FIFA, because they fucked around with the sort of intellectual property that would cause fans to uprise, and get mad, and grab the torches and pitchforks.
So really, EA has just confirmed that it will keep doing whatever it can get away with, more or less, and damn whatever it does to the player base, to the audience, damn how they treat the audience and player base. Just fuck em, you know. Cuz they didn’t get in trouble for FIFA, they got in trouble for Star Wars.
So that’s the bigger news of the day — if you’re interested in mind-blowing stories — Electronic Arts Continue to be Tossers. More at 11:00.