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Electronic Arts defends microtransactions in legal hearing, referring to them as “surprise mechanics”

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Microtransactions have become one of the latest controversial topics in gaming, with many decrying them for their “predatory nature”. Many publishers have responded positively to the criticism and overall uproar, with games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War (published by WB Games) and Star Wars Battlefront II (published by Electronic Arts) completely removing the microtransactions.

The fiasco surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II’s microtransaction implementation was large enough to cause widespread media coverage, large enough to incite government involvement. In April of 2018, Belgium lawmakers went as far as to outlow the inclusion of lootboxes in video games, due to their principle being akin to gambling. In the present day, Electronic Arts was brought into a legal hearing in the United Kingdom, the subject of this hearing being “Immersive and Addictive Technologies”.

During this hearing, Electronic Arts legal vice president, Kerry Hopkins, used some choice words to describe their microtransaction system, referring to loot boxes as “surprise mechanics”. Further into the hearing, Hopkins spoke more on FIFA 19's lootbox system (referred to as "FIFA Ultimate Team"), stating that the mechanics were “quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.”

Ultimately EA's statements and actions are contradictory. While they are defending, and still including microtransactions in FIFA 19, they have clearly responded to consumer backlash with the removal of Star Wars Battlefront II's microtransactions.

The full hearing can be viewed here.

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It's interesting how all these legal proceedings and policies are being decided by a room of people that look like they've never played a computer game before in their lives. However I am quite impressed on how the committee are pressing EA on the addictive qualities of loot boxes, and how they are kind of squirming their ways out of it.

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