In context: Loot boxes are easily one of the most controversial aspects of modern video games. Such systems, which are present in titles like Overwatch, FIFA, and at one point even Star Wars Battlefront 2, have often been compared to gambling -- this comparison is something several world governments have concurred with, and adjusted their regulations accordingly (much to the chagrin of some game publishers).
However, despite the public's frustration with loot boxes, EA is convinced that people love them. Speaking before a UK parliament panel on Wednesday (the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee), representatives from EA and Epic Games made their feelings on the matter very clear.
Instead of referring to loot boxes as loot boxes, they call them "surprise mechanics" and claim that they are "quite ethical and quite fun" in the eyes of many players.
The following excerpt from the hearing's full transcript summarizes EA VP Kerry Hopkins' arguments:
If you go to—I don’t know what your version of Target is—a store that sells a lot of toys and you do a search for surprise toys, you will find that this is something people enjoy. They enjoy surprises. It is something that has been part of toys for years, whether it is Kinder eggs or Hatchimals or LOL Surprise!. We think the way we have implemented those kinds of mechanics—and FIFA, of course, is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs—is quite ethical and quite fun; it is enjoyable to people.
Naturally, anti-loot box gamers will probably strongly disagree with Hopkins' arguments here, but he nonetheless defends them vigorously throughout the rest of the hearing.
"We agree with the UK Gambling Commission, the Australian gambling commission and many other gambling commissions that they are not gambling, and we also disagree that there is evidence that shows it leads to gambling," Hopkins added. "Instead, we think it is like many other products that people enjoy in a very healthy way. They like the element of surprise."
We highly recommend reading the full hearing transcript for yourself. It sheds some light on how EA views loot boxes and microtransactions in general, and the members of parliament questioning EA and Epic pose some pretty tough questions to the two companies (though they don't seem particularly satisfied with the answers they were given).