Electronic Arts (EA), the makers of the popular FIFA series of FIFA games have announced their intention to appeal a decision made by The District Court of The Hague, that their FIFA Ultimate Team packs are in violation of the Netherlands Betting and Gaming Act.
He added that;“We do not believe that our products and services violate gambling laws in any way. We are appealing this decision and we seek to avoid a situation impacting the ability of Dutch players to fully experience and enjoy FIFA Ultimate Team.”
He also confirmed that EA Sports remained “deeply committed to positive play” and that the company sought “to bring choice, fairness, value, and fun to all our players.”
As a result of the ruling, the court has allowed the Netherlands Gaming Authority to fine EA a maximum of €500,000 per week for as long as the company continues to sell FIFA Ultimate Team packs within the Netherlands.
These fines which the Netherlands Gaming Authority had originally wanted to be set at €10,000,000 per week, will be suspended until EA’s appeal against the ruling can be heard.
This is not the first time the Dutch government has taken action against loot box systems. After its report named “Study into loot boxes: A treasure or a burden?”, the government forced Valve to disable the ability for players to trade in-game items from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, and Dota 2 back in 2018.
FIFA “Loot Box” Controversy
Loot boxes, as anyone who has enjoyed a spot of FIFA esports gambling will know, have always been a contentious issue and not just for the FIFA series of games. Anyone who has played or indulged in a spot of Call of Duty betting will know that Loot Boxes in this and other popular esports titles, can be highly contentious and are a lucrative way for companies to maintain a strong cash flow from their game, once it has been bought by the customer.
The issue tends to be based around two key issues with Loot Boxes, which is what FIFA Ultimate Team packs have been likened to. The first is that these items can be bought for real cash, secondly they can bestow high-value items on players, but do so in a random way in which the player cannot influence what they receive in their loot box.
The fact that you have to pay for something that then offers you a chance to receive a high-value item, which can then be traded as a commodity, means that many people feel Loot Boxes are essentially a form of gambling.
Now unlike esports betting with a site like Unikrn for example, Loot Boxes are not age-limited and this means that there are massive potential ramifications from this ruling in the Netherlands which could impact FIFA Ultimate Team all around the world.
Belgium and UK
EA has already taken the decision to stop offering FIFA Ultimate Team packs for sale in Belgium and there is also the potential for the lucrative UK market to follow suit with Parliament’s deadline for an investigation into Loot Boxes coming on the 22nd November. It is believed the UK could follow a similar line to Dutch lawmakers in ruling that they are a form of gambling.
If that is the case, given that players of all ages can access loot boxes in games, this could have serious ramifications for these features not just in FIFA, but in all games that offer them.
With FIFA estimated to generate around €2 billion a year for EA, the majority of that believe to come from FIFA Ultimate Team purchases, it is easy to see why EA are maintaining their feature does not breach gambling laws.