Microtransactions are in the news once again, and once again because they caused a gamer to spend a stupidly large amount of money. In this case, it’s because of FIFA loot boxes, which cost a gamer £3000 after he had become addicted to the thrill of opening Ultimate Team packs.
This isn’t a new story among microtransactions but it does catapult them into the news again a few years after the last enormous kerfuffle with EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2. It also once again brings up the fact that microtransactions are still available in sports games.
The Battlefront 2 debacle caused a number of various countries to consider legislation against their use in video games, with at least one country, Belgium, outright banning the practice due to it fitting their definition of gambling.
Talks have also been happening in the UK about whether to classify loot boxes as gambling, though EA has tried to deflect that thought by calling them “surprise mechanics“. Jonathon Peniket, who spent the £3000 on loot boxes, disagreed, saying he became addicted to the buzz.
FIFA loot boxes are ubiquitous in the game, as you need to open them in order to get better players for the franchise’s Ultimate Team mode. However, Peniket’s story may help the UK decide whether or not to classify the boxes as gambling.
The government has called for evidence linking the practice of loot boxes and microtransactions to children gambling, and Peniket is one of those people that likely has a great deal of evidence to send, since the UK’s Gambling Commission did not classify them as gambling due to not having a payout (that is, also had the chance to make gamblers money).
The UK Parliament responded to an anti-loot box petition this week, saying that it would take action on microtransactions if gathered evidence supported taking an approach to protect young people who might otherwise be snared by microtransactions and the promise of loot.
Considering that microtransactions and loot boxes are annoyingly prominent in many games these days, being able to get rid of FIFA loot boxes would be another serious blow against them that might persuade big companies to stop putting them in.