Groups urge US to investigate Electronic Arts video game ‘loot box’

WASHINGTON, June 2 (Reuters) – Consumer advocates on Thursday urged U.S. regulators to investigate video game maker Electronic Arts Inc (EA.O) for what they say is the misleading use of a “box “digital loot box” that “aggressively” urges players to spend more money playing a popular soccer game.

The groups Fairplay, Center for Digital Democracy and 13 other organizations urged the Federal Trade Commission to probe the EA game “FIFA: Ultimate Team”.

In the game, players create a football team using avatars of real players and compete against other teams. In a letter to the FTC, the groups said the game typically costs between $50 and $100, but the company has been pushing gamers to spend more.

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“This incentivizes gamers to purchase packs in search of special gamers,” said the letter sent by these groups along with the Consumer Federation of America and the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health and others.

Packs, or loot boxes, are packs of digital content sometimes purchased with real money that give the purchaser a potential advantage in a game. They can be purchased with digital currency, which can hide the amount spent, they said.

“The odds of opening up a coveted card, such as Player of the Year, are minimal unless a player spends thousands of dollars in points or plays for thousands of hours to earn coins,” they wrote. declared the groups in the letter.

Electronic Arts said in a statement Thursday that of the game’s millions of players, 78% have not made an in-game purchase.

“Expenses are always optional,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We encourage the use of parental controls, including spending controls, which are available for all major gaming platforms, including EA’s own platforms.”

The spokesperson also said the company has created a dashboard so players can track how long they’ve been playing, how many packs they’ve opened, and what purchases have been made.

The FTC, which cracks down on companies with deceptive behavior, held a workshop on loot boxes in 2019. In a “staff perspective” that followed, the agency noted that video game microtransactions have become a multi-billion dollar market.

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Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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