EA Facing Class Action Lawsuit Over Loot Boxes in Games

EA Class Action Lawsuit - Loot Boxes

You may remember that we’ve discussed whether loot boxes in various online games constitute gambling. While loot boxes are highly controversial, they are still lightly regulated globally. It appears that one gaming company will have to tackle the issue head-on. Electronic Arts, also known as EA, is now facing a class-action lawsuit over the use of boxes in its games.

If this lawsuit is successful, it may change the future of loot boxes for EA and could begin a shift away from the use of them by other gaming companies.

EA Facing Canadian Class Action Lawsuit

News broke over the weekend regarding a major Canadian class-action lawsuit against Electronic Arts, better known to the world as EA. The lawsuit stems from the company’s use of loot boxes in its games. The lawsuit is seeking damages equal to the amount of money paid by players since 2009 to unlock the boxes in dozens of games.

Among the games named in the lawsuit are FIFA 09 through FIFA 21, Madden NFL 10 through Madden NFL 21. NHL 11 through NHL 21, Mass Effect, Plants vs. Zombies, The Sims Mobile, Battlefield, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and more.

The argument is that loot boxes constitute a form of gambling, similar to online pokies. The boxes offer percentages or odds that tell players the likelihood of obtaining a particular character. However, there are no guarantees that a player will get the character or item that they desire from the game with a purchase.

What normally happens is that a player purchases a loot box and fails to get the desired upgrade. They must then purchase additional boxes to try and get the desired upgrade or character. The main difference between this and online casino games is that players receive a return every time they purchase a loot box and the digital item becomes a part of a player’s inventory.

What Are Loot Boxes?

Loot boxes are virtual consumable items that contain items that can be used in online games. These range from weapons to players, and even digital currency that can be used in the game. The delivery of these boxes varies from game to game. Sometimes, a player must pick from multiple chests to try and gain a prize. Other times, the different items spin around like a roulette wheel.

Items delivered in boxes are randomized. Players have better odds to get lower tier upgrades and characters than higher tier items. At times, specialized boxes are made available that only have one class of weapon or playable character.

Loot boxes give players a way to quickly upgrade characters or unlock other characters without having to spend hours, days, or weeks playing the game. Most games include free boxes, but at a significantly reduced rate, and the prize odds are generally lower than the paid version of the loot box.

What a Successful Lawsuit May Mean

Loot boxes are controversial and some countries are already restricting them. Australia is one country considering regulating the items the same that they do online casinos in Australia. A successful class-action lawsuit against EA may change how gaming companies use loot boxes in the future. Loot boxes are a remarkably successful revenue generator for online gaming companies. A successful lawsuit against EA will likely open the floodgates for lawsuits against other companies. This will likely force those companies to reconsider and discontinue using paid boxes for their games.

It may also change how some countries regulate boxes. If Canada’s court system rules that loot boxes are gambling, it will be used as a basis for other countries to rule loot boxes as a form of gambling. If Australia does this, it would force gaming companies to discontinue using them if they want to provide services in Australia.

Ultimately, this will change online gaming, and some argue for the better. Ditching paid loot boxes will reduce the number of ancillary expenses incurred by players. It may force companies to create higher quality online gaming to keep players invested. On the flip side, it will certainly force the price of online gaming up as gaming companies look to recoup the lost loot box revenue.