Late last year, Belgium’s Gaming Commission declared that loot boxes — digital crates in games that contain randomized rewards — are a form of gambling. They were subsequently made illegal in the country and most major publishers have complied with the government’s request that they be disabled in their games. Electronic Arts have not complied, however, and the decision has the company in legal trouble.
According to the Metro in Belgium, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into Electronic Arts over its continued offering of loot boxes in the FIFA series. The report specifically mentions FIFA 18 and FIFA 19, the latter of which has not yet been released.
Publisher Blizzard previously removed loot boxes from games like Overwatch in Belgium, and though the system has been around in games for years before Overwatch released, it helped normalize and popularize their use.
Electronic Arts’ use of loot boxes was perhaps the most egregious of the major game publishers, with the progression system in Star Wars: Battlefront II initially being based on opening crates and receiving items to upgrade your character. Players pushed back, accusing the game of using a pay-to-win system due to its use of real money to purchase loot boxes. The outrage was so severe that Battlefront II was eventually reworked to remove paid loot boxes altogether.
You don’t have to dig very far to realize why the company is so opposed to their removal in the FIFA series, however. Last year, EA revealed that the Ultimate Team mode in FIFA, which makes heavy use of card packs, generates about $800 million in net revenue. It has become a core element of EA’s business, and it’s also present in the company’s other sports games.
That being said, Electronic Arts has listened to players’ feedback in regard to its other games. Battlefield V, which is due to release in November, will not have any gameplay-focused microtransactions, and there are no current plans to include a season pass for new maps or weapons. Given the amount of money people spend on card packs in FIFA, though, we don’t see it going the same route anytime soon.