Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney didn’t show loot boxes any love this Valentine’s Day as he took an unprecedented swipe at the somewhat ubiquitous use of loot boxes throughout a number of key games, comparing their use to effectively introducing players to gambling.
Speaking to an audience at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas last weekend, Sweeney was quick to point out that the use of loot boxes has many links to gambling and that this could have a potentially negative impact on gamers, and across the esports industry as a whole.
“All the Mechanics of Gambling”
“We have to ask ourselves as an industry; what do we want to be when we grow up? Do we want to be Las Vegas or do we want to be worldwide, highly respected creators of entertainment products customers can trust?”
He added “I think we will see more and more publishers move away from loot boxes. We should be very reticent of creating an experience where the outcome can be influenced by spending money. Loot boxes play on all the mechanics of gambling, except for the ability to get more money out in the end.”
To conclude, he also took a swipe at those companies that heavily invest on loot boxes and other similar systems by stating that he was rallying against “industries that are based on adversarial business models, businesses that profit from doing customers harm, and doing their supportive ecosystems harm.”
FIFA Ultimate Team Mode Lawsuits
Mr. Sweeney’s comments come just a short time after it was announced in France, that EA Sports, the creators of the popular esports title FIFA, have seen two lawsuits issued against them due to their use of a similar ‘loot box’ system within their Ultimate Team Mode.
In this mode, players can purchase a variety of packs to be rewarded with certain players and other perks which can then be used in Ultimate Team mode to improve their team.
The problem that many users encounter with this, is that it can be extremely difficult to land some of the rarer cards and players in the game, and as such, players can spend an increasing amount of money on increasingly expensive packs, in order to try and land a specific player or card.
One Ultimate Team user, quoted on the French daily newspaper L’Equipe, admitted that he had fallen behind on his rent payments due to spending his money on Ultimate Team packs and that the inability to land top players in the packs made him so frustrated that he would ‘buy again and again’.
A burgeoning market for the very top players has grown up in FIFA, which means that should a player decide to ‘transfer list’ a player in the game, then the cost to buy that player in FUT Coins, which can be purchased for real cash, is so great that players can spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds in order to land just one player for their Ultimate Team.
With so many players willingly participating in Loot Box-styled schemes across a number of games both in and outside of the esports industry, it is hard to see how an add-on which has proven so popular, as well as controversial, could be removed from a game without harming its appeal.
Images courtesy of Rachel Luna @Getty Images and EA Sports