EA has insisted it has no “ethical concerns” over Fifa Ultimate Team packs and other loot boxes from which they make huge amounts of money.
Appearing in Parliament, EA’s legal chief Kerry Hopkins defended what she described as “surprise mechanics”, likening them to Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals or LOL Surprise toys.
3 If you want to get the best players and rarest cards, expect to shell out for a lot of packsCredit: EA
Defending the much-maligned packs which contain random collections of players gamers can add to their online squads as “something people enjoy”, Hopkins said they were “quite ethical and quite fun”.
Hopkins added that EA, which made made roughly £850 million in 2018 from such packs, was “a very responsible company.”
In the UK the packs are not currently classified as gambling, but the Gambling Commission recently warned of a “growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred.”
They have been dismissed as “effectively gambling” by charities such as GambleAware.
“More than one in ten British children are effectively gambling in popular online games,” GambleAware says, adding that loot boxes “may be normalising gambling for children.”
3 Players from all eras are available through FUT, though individual competitions may have rules on eligibilityCredit: EA
What is a loot box?LOOT BOXES are, generally, random collections of in-game items.
In a war game these might be anything from uniforms to weapons, in sports games they might be players or kits to add to an online team, or in mobile games they might be power-ups or characters.
The mechanic of giving players randomised rewards when they complete an in-game task has been part of gaming since the beginning, but in-game purchasing mechanics have made them controversial in some countries.
They are also huge money spinners.
One of the most profitable are Ultimate Team packs in Fifa.
Ultimate Team is Fifa’s main online mode, where you build a team by collecting player cards, which as sold in packs.
These are effectively electronic versions of Panini sticker packs – and like sticker packs, you’re going to have to buy a lot of packs to get all the players you want, paying for lots of duplicates.
You pay for a bundle of player cards with ‘Fifa points’ which are either earned in small quantities in-game or bought with real money.
Obviously having better players – or better versions of players, as many come in multiple versions – makes winning easier, so those wanting to be successful in this mode feel they have to pay to win.
Some allege that this is akin to unlicensed gambling, because each pack is effectively a spin of a roulette wheel because while the cost of the pack is fixed, the value of the contents are not.
Charities have claimed that even if not technically gambling, the mechanic normalises gambling for children and leads to gambling problems later in life.
EA, which publishes the Fifa games, denies all these things, claiming they have no “ethical qualms” about what they call “surprise mechanics”.
Approximately 20 percent of EA’s total revenue last year came from sales of Ultimate Team packs, which made the firm roughly £850 million in 2018.
Each copy of Fifa sold equates to about £100 in revenue for EA, despite the game itself selling for as little as £20.
Some players spend thousands of pounds on the packs, with the players having to start their collections from scratch every year when a new version of the game comes out.
Belgium’s gambling regulator recently decided the packs did count as gambling, and EA subsequently stopped selling Fifa points – the in-game currency used to obtain the packs – in the country.
In the US, a law taking aim at Fifa’s loot boxes is under consideration – and the Senator behind it says it “has EA worried”.
Republican Josh Hawley said that the adding of loot boxes was effectively “adding casinos to kids’ games in an attempt to get them hooked, in an attempt to exploit them.”
The comments came in the same session of Parliament’s immersive and addictive technologies inquiry where representatives of Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, expressed shock at Prince Harry’s call to ban the popular game.
Talking to Sun Online recently, Microsoft’s Dave McCarthy said he welcomed this sort of attention from legislators, and would even welcome new laws on the matter.
3 Taking the test should take about as long as a decent round of FortniteCredit: Epic Games / The Sun
“I want to get more parents and kids aware of the tools that are there and I think it’s good that that gets out in the social sphere,” he said.
Recently, an international team of psychologists has written an online quiz, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, that tests you against the the criteria recently set by the World Health Organisation.
The WHO description of gaming disorder does make it clear that it’s the potential negative impacts that define game addiction, and recognise that “spending copious amounts of time gaming” on its own isn’t enough to define addiction.
The test doesn’t provide a formal diagnosis, but it will flag if you are “meet the WHO criteria for gaming disorder” so that you can seek professional help, according to lead researcher Dr Bruno Schivinski.
The UK games industry has previously hit out at the WHO and the idea of gaming disorder, claiming there was “no evidence” linking playing games to addiction.
Screen time management – how to do itTo set screen time limits for your child on Xbox One and Windows 10 devices, use the online tool.Go to account.microsoft.com/family and sign in withyour Microsoft account. Then:
Find your child’s name and select Screen time.
If you want to use the same schedule for all devices, switch Use one screen time schedule from Off to On. If you’d rather have separate schedules, scroll down and switch on screen time for PC and Xbox One individually.
Set how much time your child is allowed to spend with their devices each day, and when they can use them. If you want to give them the full amount of time you’ve scheduled, select Max scheduled. (Example: If you’ve allowed screen time from 8 am to 8 pm, they could use their devices that entire time.)
You can read about all of the Xbox Parental Controls and how to apply them here.
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Reports of “gaming disorder” have been coming from all quarters, with one professional footballer revealing to The Sun how he feared it might ruin his career.
Children as young as 11 are reportedly being taken into care as a result of the disorder, while other parents have reported the troubling effects of compulsive gaming on their own children.
Adults have reported problems too, with one revealing he wrecked his life after blowing £15,000 of wedding savings on video games.
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