EA faces another class-action lawsuit over loot boxes

midian182

Posts: 6,170   +51
Staff member
A hot potato: Loot boxes have always been a contentious part of video games, and they became a worldwide issue following Electronic Arts’ decision to implement versions with pay-to-win elements in 2017’s Battlefront 2. The company is now facing a class-action lawsuit in Canada that alleges its loot boxes violate the country’s Criminal Code.

As per The Patch Notes, the case revolves around an argument many governments and politicians have made previously: that loot boxes constitute a form of gambling. Because EA does not hold a gambling license in the region, a pair of Canadians claim it is operating an unlicensed gambling business.

The suit covers a number of EA games that include loot boxes, from Madden and FIFA to Mass Effect and Apex Legends. Mark Sutherland and Shawn Moore, who have brought the case, bought loot box items in Madden and NHL, respectfully.

The plaintiffs also claim that by not publishing the odds of winning prizes and making loot box purchases occasionally necessary for progression without hours of grinding, EA is breaching various consumer protection statutes.

The Patch writes that “This is not a self-represented litigant filing a nuisance lawsuit, but a well-pled claim brought by an experienced legal team who specializes in going after large corporations for stuff like this.”

In terms of damages, the plaintiffs are seeking essentially everything EA has made through selling loot boxes since 2008, which would be a stunning amount of money. The three-week time limit EA has to file a response ends this week.

Before EA changed the game, a redditor worked out that it took “4,528 hours of gameplay (or $2,100) to unlock all base-game content in Star Wars Battlefront 2.” In 2019, the company said loot boxes, which they referred to as "surprise mechanics," were "quite ethical and quite fun," comparing them to Kinder eggs.

This isn't the only legal challenge to loot boxes EA is facing. A similar class action lawsuit was filed against the firm in California earlier this year. Specifically, it claims that FIFA Ultimate Team violates the state's anti-gambling statute.

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Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,052   +2,598
Or... don’t play and support the game and it’ll go under. Another cash grab by people taking advantage of the system.
There are so many good games out there. Personally I refuse to support EA, Ubisoft, Activision, or 2K anymore. They can all wither on the vine.

So far I'm not missing out, these "AAA" games are nothing more then "purchase content" simulators with some barebones gameplay and over tutorialized yet still confusing missions thrown in between.
 

Kazkas

Posts: 18   +56
Or... don’t play and support the game and it’ll go under. Another cash grab by people taking advantage of the system.
Well, yes... But how I understand, the legal complaint is based on the addiction factor, where user is involved to spend real money for a chance to get something valuable or progress quicker... and that is kinda similar to gambling (or at least lottery), which is state regulated, taxed and usually 16+ only etc.
So it’s indeed very interesting how it will end!
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,052   +2,598
Well, yes... But how I understand, the legal complaint is based on the addiction factor, where user is involved to spend real money for a chance to get something valuable or progress quicker... and that is kinda similar to gambling (or at least lottery), which is state regulated, taxed and usually 16+ only etc.
So it’s indeed very interesting how it will end!
I for one would not be sad if loot boxes and money-for-random-items mechanics were outright banned.
 

BadThad

Posts: 314   +241
Personally, I'd rather pay $100+ for game than have to complete with people spending money for upgrades that give them a competitive advantage. I cannot stand the current model of most modern "free" games where you have to keep paying to play (properly). Call me old school but I'd rather pay upfront, be done with it and have a level playing field for ALL players.
 

Hexic

Posts: 800   +873
TechSpot Elite
There are so many good games out there. Personally I refuse to support EA, Ubisoft, Activision, or 2K anymore. They can all wither on the vine.

So far I'm not missing out, these "AAA" games are nothing more then "purchase content" simulators with some barebones gameplay and over tutorialized yet still confusing missions thrown in between.
I believe that at best, this suit is pushing a grey area (and/or an area that hasn't been legislated yet) just to get some cash out of it. I also refuse to support most of your listed developers above - with the exception of Activision, due to Blizzard for the most part. I won't purchase loot boxes in Overwatch for example, but if people wish to spend their money at a chance for some character skins... that's their choice.

When it comes to pay-to-win games, I won’t even touch those.
 
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Axil00

Posts: 41   +45
I believe that at best, this suit is pushing a grey area (and/or an area that hasn't been legislated yet) just to get some cash out of it. I also refuse to support most of your listed developers above - with the exception of Activision, due to Blizzard for the most part. I won't purchase loot boxes in Overwatch for example, but if people wish to spend their money at a chance for some character skins... that's their choice.

When it comes to pay-to-win games, I won’t even touch those.
Legally it's a grey area but logically I don't understand why it would not be treated like gambling.

We have laws that say if you're paying for a chance to get something you have a right to know what that chance is.

Instead game developers actively attempt to mislead customers into believing that their chances are greater than they are.

I remember a couple months ago when my 12 yr/o son told me how unlucky he had been with whatever game he was playings reward spinner. How he always seemed to land right next to the big prize on the dial, never on it.

He was playing with the free currency the game occasionally provides, so once I explained how the while I was sure there was an actual possiblity to win what he had wanted, but it was likely significantly lower than he had been led to believe, it wasn't a big deal.

Yeah people should know better, but why should these companies not have to follow the rules that every nickel slot does?
 
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tellmewhy

Posts: 48   +16
It’s not gambling because it doesn’t exchange money for money in a pseudorandom way but money for (virtual) items, so it’s a sale.
In an auction for example you don’t know the final price after the bids but of course it’s not gambling its a sale just the randomness comes from external factors instead of internal in that case.
The gambling needs to pay a license with fixed price because they don’t pay vat which is paid on sales.
Maybe it’s overpriced sale but still a sale.
Beside that a risk factor more or less is embedded in all exchanges.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,020   +857
It’s not gambling because it doesn’t exchange money for money in a pseudorandom way but money for (virtual) items, so it’s a sale.
No. Most loot boxes (the ones which are the subject of this suit, at least) have a randomization component; you are not purchasing a virtual item, you are purchasing a chance to acquire a virtual item ... and often the specific odds of that chance are unknown.

EA's defense will obviously be that they provide no means to convert that virtual item back into real-world cash. It's unclear how well that will hold up in court. However, even should this suit be successful, it will almost certainly mean about 9 cents cash back per plaintiff, and some $50 million for the attorneys responsible for the suit.
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 48   +16
No. Most loot boxes (the ones which are the subject of this suit, at least) have a randomization component; you are not purchasing a virtual item, you are purchasing a chance to acquire a virtual item ... and often the specific odds of that chance are unknown.

EA's defense will obviously be that they provide no means to convert that virtual item back into real-world cash. It's unclear how well that will hold up in court. However, even should this suit be successful, it will almost certainly mean about 9 cents cash back per plaintiff, and some $50 million for the attorneys responsible for the suit.
I can agree that ethically its bad to take money from kids in that way but randomness alone isn’t enough to define gambling. Maybe it has more changes to succeed as false advertise, because clearly its a sale and it’s taxed like that.

Ps: Why attorneys should be expensive? Should not justice must be easily accessible to citizens? Why are they pay taxes then?
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,020   +857
...
but randomness alone isn’t enough to define gambling.
According to federal and state legal codes, it is. If your odds of winning are determined primary by chance rather than skill -- it's gambling. Legally, the only grey area here is whether or not a virtual item constitutes an actual prize.

Ps: Why attorneys should be expensive? Should not justice must be easily accessible to citizens? Why are they pay taxes then?
They're not paid via taxes. Attorneys in a class action suit such as this are paid on contingency a portion of the total judgement. In my opinion, given the massive abuses we've seen from class-action suits in decades past, they should be banned outright. But given that tort attorneys are the second largest source of campaign contributions to Democratic political candidates, the odds of seeing tort reform in the US are slim to none.
 
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Cubi Dorf

Posts: 256   +123
Gambling is to paying for chance to win something of value. does not require prize to be money. it gambling if prize has value, which is where it is debatable.

It’s not gambling because it doesn’t exchange money for money in a pseudorandom way but money for (virtual) items, so it’s a sale.
In an auction for example you don’t know the final price after the bids but of course it’s not gambling its a sale just the randomness comes from external factors instead of internal in that case.
The gambling needs to pay a license with fixed price because they don’t pay vat which is paid on sales.
Maybe it’s overpriced sale but still a sale.
Beside that a risk factor more or less is embedded in all exchanges.
 

tellmewhy

Posts: 48   +16
According to federal and state legal codes, it is. If your odds of winning are determined primary by chance rather than skill -- it's gambling. Legally, the only grey area here is whether or not a virtual item constitutes an actual prize.

They're not paid via taxes. Attorneys in a class action suit such as this are paid on contingency a portion of the total judgement. In my opinion, given the massive abuses we've seen from class-action suits in decades past, they should be banned outright. But given that tort attorneys are the second largest source of campaign contributions to Democratic political candidates, the odds of seeing tort reform in the US are slim to none.
In video games randomness is a core element of gameplay. For example every offline RPG you can buy for a fixed price without the need to pay for anything else, it will handle the items with some randomness. Is that gambling too? What about stock market? Medical treatments ? Drugs sales (randomness in side effects) ? Agriculture(randomness in weather)? Ad sales (randomness in audience response)? etc

And as I said gambling business doesn’t pay vat, so if they declare them gambling business they would have to return them all the vat they have pay until now with around 10% interest every year until the court final decides, in exchange for a fixed price for a gambling license. Gambling business it’s much easier and less costly to manage too because you don’t have to handle vat. So they would prefer to be handled as gambling business and they could handle the probabilities of the items with much more freedom too.
But this situation is false advertisement on sales because the loot boxes they will give something every time they opened even if it isn't that super rare item which the kids was expecting. So if they show the probabilities to the players for each item and set up a maximum to the try's before a guarantee item, they would be 100% fine. For example the item X has 0.01% change to drop every time but it’s guaranteed that will drop once every 100 tries. That would be a lot more fair.
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,079   +663
Or... don’t play and support the game and it’ll go under. Another cash grab by people taking advantage of the system.
NO. That's the junk way to run a society. Laws exist for a reason. EA is playing the dice they won't get penalised more than they get away with.
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,079   +663
Gambling is to paying for chance to win something of value. does not require prize to be money. it gambling if prize has value, which is where it is debatable.
It absolutely has value because people pay for accounts with items, levels etc. If you can put a value on something AND people pay said value for it, then it is WORTH that value.
 

Hexic

Posts: 800   +873
TechSpot Elite
NO. That's the junk way to run a society. Laws exist for a reason. EA is playing the dice they won't get penalised more than they get away with.
There are no such laws that exist that apply to gaming companies these days on this issue. You can interpret the state/federal gambling laws all you would like, still doesn’t apply on paper... yet. Legislate something then yes - but suing over a grey area with something as nebulous and fickle as this is ridiculous when the alternative is to... not support the habit.

The beautiful thing about capitalism is that if enough people boycott a market, it will cease to exist.
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,079   +663
There are no such laws that exist that apply to gaming companies these days on this issue. You can interpret the state/federal gambling laws all you would like, still doesn’t apply on paper... yet. Legislate something then yes - but suing over a grey area with something as nebulous and fickle as this is ridiculous when the alternative is to... not support the habit.

The beautiful thing about capitalism is that if enough people boycott a market, it will cease to exist.
A huge portion of the gaming industry has turned into alpha on release full price AAA reskinned release junk because of capitalism. The boycott theory is junk. It objectively has not worked. EA and Activision two examples of how good studios get consumed and consumers get screwed.
 

CybaGirl

Posts: 29   +15
Personally, I'd rather pay $100+ for game than have to complete with people spending money for upgrades that give them a competitive advantage. I cannot stand the current model of most modern "free" games where you have to keep paying to play (properly). Call me old school but I'd rather pay upfront, be done with it and have a level playing field for ALL players.
Yes I totally agree with you!

The problem is. It seems to me they are moving away from just buying a game outright to the mobile phone business model in which you have to keep spending money to advance any further in a game.

Nothing more than greed and down right money pits for the mindless masses who don't know any better.

I really don't see the point in playing games on mobile phones as they are just a money pit and at the end of the day just so boring compared to playing a game on a PC and will never be as good as playing a game on the PC or console for that matter.

Anyway bottom line. I don't fall into to this trap and I just buy and play games for the campaigns included these days. Not interested in subscription based plans or paying money to get further in the game. Nor am I interested in competing with the kiddy cheaters and their aim bots. Simply because they have no skill at doing anything in life and have to resort to cheating to get anywhere.

This is why I stopped playing online back in the days of COD Modern Warfare. Simply no fun in playing against cheaters who have to cheat to make themselves feel good about their miserable existence. Instead of spending time learning to develop and nurture a real talent for something.

Furthermore. I would like to say that I saw the beginning of the end years ago when Microsoft introduced it's subscription based software service for Office 360. I knew it wouldn't be long before software developers jumped on this greed band wagon. It use to be that you would buy software once and get free updates apart from AnitVirus software.

Even my MalwareBytes license key that I purchased not long after the company launched came with a lifetime key and free updates and continues to be this way to this day.

But the thing is. If people didn't subscribe to this greed then these companies would have to look at going back to the business model that they had prior to the greed factor setting in.

Don't get me wrong I like to support good software and decent software business that offer a one time payment option even if it is a few dollars more. But I for one refuse to play this constant subscription game and if software companies are not going to be reasonable then I will seek out other ways that don't cost me a penny.

 
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Bp968

Posts: 194   +141
It’s not gambling because it doesn’t exchange money for money in a pseudorandom way but money for (virtual) items, so it’s a sale.
In an auction for example you don’t know the final price after the bids but of course it’s not gambling its a sale just the randomness comes from external factors instead of internal in that case.
The gambling needs to pay a license with fixed price because they don’t pay vat which is paid on sales.
Maybe it’s overpriced sale but still a sale.
Beside that a risk factor more or less is embedded in all exchanges.
It really really stretches the idea of "sale". More and more I am seeing the real life version of "loot boxes". At a few conventions ive been to the last few years a few companies would set up a "surprise box" you would buy for 20-30$. They would buy up a bunch of discount "overstock" boardgames they picked up for a buck or two each. Then they would buy a few dozen/hundred quality big name titles to "sprinkle" in among the cheap titles. Then they would box them all up in a faceless cardboard box and youd give them your 20-30$ for your "loot box". Most of the boxes would be full of crap boardgames and the total cost to them would be 5-10$ max. About every 5-10th person in line would get something decent, enough to keep the line moving. About every 20-30th person would get some AAA title that cost 75-80$ and it would incite envy and greed among those waiting in line. Just watching for 10-15 minutes id see people get back in line 2 or 3 times "trying their luck".

Its without a doubt gambling. I'm fine with vices for adults. If your 18+ then be as stupid as you want. But it should be a fair playing field. If a card game or bingo game gets regulated then the "loot boxes" should be regulated too.