The Loot Box Issue: The Dutch Court Shows EA the Red Card

Electronic Arts will be subject to a punishment from the Netherlands Gaming Authority due to the presence of treasure boxes in the current FIFA soccer game. The Hague District Court announced the decision this Thursday, siding with the Dutch gambling authority Kansspelautoriteit (KSA).

This ruling gives the KSA the authority to sanction the publisher €10 million for breaking the Betting and Gaming Act of the Netherlands. The punishment was originally set to take effect in October of this year, 2019, after the KSA issued a warning in 2018 to disable loot boxes. This was challenged by EA, which also objected to the KSA’s announcement of its intended sanctions.


Electronic Arts contended that the Betting and Gaming Act should not apply to loot boxes because they do not constitute “gambling.” According to the publisher, these products could not be purchased with real money and could only be used in the FIFA Ultimate Team mode. It also noted that FIFA was primarily a game of skill and that there was no hard evidence between ‘Ultimate Team’ prize boxes with compulsive gambling.


The three-member judging panel was unconvinced, however, and they concluded that players could still make money off of Ultimate Team packs and that some cards were quite valuable.


The court ruled that there is no need for all forms of gambling to be shown to be problematic based on’scientific’ data. This is because the premise of the Betting and Gaming Act is that they do in fact include some degree of risk, much like software developers of slot machines, such as Microgaming. The judges continued to contradict one other by referencing many reports from experts and gamers warning of the negative consequences of loot boxes.


Electronic Arts has three weeks to turn off the function in order to escape the relatively severe fines imposed by the KSA. The publisher may also file a formal appeal of the ruling. Dirk Scholing, EA’s Benelux Country Manager, made the announcement. Most of all, the verdict disturbed Scholing, who voiced grave worries about its potential repercussions for the beleaguered community of online FIFA players in Holland.


We are concerned about the potential impact of this decision on the Dutch gaming community, as players all around the world have loved FIFA and the FIFA Ultimate Team mode.


Scholing not only emphasized EA’s unrelenting efforts to ensure ‘positive play’ (whatever that means), but he also hinted that his business would be open to further communication with Dutch regulators.


Electronic Arts has a strong dedication to constructive gameplay. Our goal is to provide variety, equity, value, and entertainment to each and every one of our players. To that end, we welcome continued dialogue with the Netherlands Gambling Authority and other interested parties.


The KSA, on the other hand, was refreshingly candid in its response to the verdict. KSA spokesman René Jansen, describing the organization’s mission as defender of Holland’s vulnerable population, declared:


The KSA strongly thinks that protecting vulnerable populations from gambling is a top priority. This is why the KSA advocates for a wall to be built between gaming and gambling. Many gamers are still in their formative years, making them more vulnerable to the pitfalls of addiction. Therefore, games should not include any forms of gambling.


Continued he:


The suppliers of the game are the ones that broke the law by including a gambling component. The KSA has informed Electronic Arts Inc. of this…multiple times. Because of this, it is their duty to alter the game in such a way that it no longer breaks the law. They get to decide exactly how this is done.


It’s not the first time that loot boxes have gotten EA into trouble. The feature made its way into the beta version of Star Wars Battlefront II in 2017. Because of this, the UK’s Committee for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport began looking into the matter.


After conducting an in-depth investigation during which various individuals within the Gaming Industry were interviewed, the DCMS issued a set of suggestions. To learn more about the impacts of the contentious element, the British government is presently conducting a public consultation. A prohibition on the sale of games featuring loot boxes to minors is one of the options being studied.


It’s puzzling that EA is pushing to have treasure boxes in their games, given the ongoing backlash against them. One would reasonably wonder why a firm worth billions of dollars would be so adamant about keeping a feature that has received so much negative attention. Maybe it has to do with getting paid.


Until then, the KSA will press on with its righteous campaign to save Holland from the evils of the video gaming industry.

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