Electronic Arts has drawn immense criticism from the gaming community over so-called loot boxes and how they are implemented in Star Wars Battlefront II, but it is not just gamers who are speaking out. Belgium's Gaming Commission has determined that loot boxes are a form of gambling and is seeking a ban against them in Europe, and Rep. Chris Lee of hawaii is taking a similar in the United States. According to Lee, loot boxes are a form of gambling aimed at children and it is time to "draw the line."
In a video showing Lee and others speak out against the current state of microtransactions, Lee calls to attention Battlefront II and the "predatory behavior" EA is engaging in. "It's a trap," he says, likening Battlefront II to a "Stars Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money." As a result of the cycles that loot boxes create, many folks feel compelled to spend thousands of dollars on loot boxes.
In a followup post on Reddit, Lee explains that the video was not meant to be made public yet, but since the cat was let out of the bag, he decided to leave it up and further explain his position.
"These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all," Lee stated.
The reason Lee and others who share his position view loot boxes as a form of gambling is, in part, because of the randomized content. A player could pay money for a loot box only to be disappointed by what it contained, and then feel compelled to try again.
They also take issue with the pay-to-win model, in which loot boxes extend beyond cosmetic upgrades to in-game items. As it pertains to Battlefront II, EA decided to prevent players from accessing key characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader without either a lengthy grind or paying additional money. Loot boxes have been a hot topic for some time now, but things really boiled over when a Battlefront II player who spent $80 on the Deluxe Edition posted his frustration over microtransactions on Reddit. EA's response to that post in defense of microtransactions became the most downvoted post in Reddit history. The negative attention also prompted Disney to phone EA to voice its displeasure over the situation, as Disney is very protective of its intellectual property.
Now Lee and others are calling for people to band together to end the practice of loot boxes.
"I believe this fight can be won because all the key bases of political support across the country are on the same side. The religious community, the medical community, the education community, consumer advocates, parents, even many business leaders and local chambers of commerce. This is a fight that unites everyone, even the most polarized conservatives and progressives. Doing something is a political win for Democrats and Republicans alike. And frankly, we don't need to change the laws in every state—we just need to change a few and it will be enough to draw the line and compel change," Lee says.
And so it begins in earnest. Depending on how this all plays out, in a weird sort of way, gamers may have EA to thank for putting an end to loot boxes.