Groups Urge US to Investigate Electronic Arts’ “Loot Box”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Consumer advocates on Thursday urged US regulators to investigate video game maker Electronic Arts. (EA.O) Because of what they say is a misleading use of a digital ‘loot box’ that ‘strongly’ urges players to spend more money while playing a popular football game.

Groups Fairplay, the Center for Digital Democracy, and 13 other organizations have urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate EA’s “FIFA: Ultimate Team.”

In the game, players build a soccer team using avatars of real players and compete against other teams. In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the groups said the game typically costs between $50 to $100, but the company has prompted players to spend more.

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“It tempts players to buy packages in search of premium players,” said the letter sent by these groups along with the Consumer Federation of America, the Massachusetts Council on Game and Health, and others.

Packs, or loot boxes, are bundles of digital content that are sometimes purchased with real money that give the buyer a potential advantage in the game. It can be purchased with digital currency, which can mask how much is being spent, they said.

“The chances of unlocking a coveted card, such as Player of the Year, are slim unless the player spends thousands of dollars on points or plays for thousands of hours to earn coins,” the groups said in the letter.

Electronic Arts said in a statement Thursday that of the game’s millions of players, 78% have made no in-game purchase.

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“Spending is always optional,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We encourage the use of parental controls, including spending controls, that are available for every major gaming platform, including EA’s own.”

The spokesperson also said that the company has created a dashboard so players keep track of the amount of time they’ve played, the number of packages they’ve opened, and purchases made.

The Federal Trade Commission, which goes after companies engaging in deceptive behavior, held a loot box workshop in 2019. In the “employee perspective” that followed, the agency noted that video game microtransactions had become a multibillion-dollar market.

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(Covering) Written by Diane Bartz in Washington Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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