EA doubled down on loot boxes in games during a hearing with UK lawmakers, comparing them to Kinder Eggs and saying they're 'actually quite ethical'
- Electronic Arts, one of the world's largest video game publishers, defended its business practices during a recent hearing with UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee.
- Lawmakers questioned whether EA's sale of randomized digital items, commonly referred to as loot boxes, is similar to gambling.
- Kerry Hopkins, EA's Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs, said the loot boxes are not unlike the surprise mechanics used by popular children's toys, and said EA's sale of random digital items is ethical.
- But the trend's popularity suggests that there's a vested business interest that goes beyond providing a simple surprise.
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As one of the world's largest video game publishers, Electronic Arts (EA) has frequently been the target of harsh criticism from both customers and lawmakers for its business practices.
Just last week, EA was called before the UK Parliament's Digital Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee to discuss whether its games were leading to addiction and introducing children to gambling.At the center of the gambling concerns are "loot boxes," a popular sales tactic that offers a random set of digital items for a specific game in exchange for cash. While these microtransactions have taken root in dozens of video games, EA is the publisher most commonly associated with the practice.
During the June 19 hearing, the DCMS Committee asked whether EA felt the sale of randomized items like loot boxes was ethical. Kerry Hopkins, EA's vice president of legal and government affairs, said the company uses the term "surprise mechanics" to describe the randomized item packs, and compared the sale of loot boxes to several popular children's toys that are widely available in stores.
"It's something that's been part of toys for years, whether it's Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise," Hopkins told the committee. "We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics ... is actually quite ethical and quite fun."
Hopkins added, "We think it's like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and [customers] like the element of surprise."