EA being on the defensive for employing shady business practices is nothing new. These days it's more surprising when a story surfaces that paints the mega-publisher in a positive light, although those instances are very few and far between. Unfortunately for anyone who was looking for an EA redemption story, this is most certainly not going to be one of those.
Today, EA's VP of legal and government affairs appeared before the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee to provide the company's take on a fun, relatively new strategy for making boat-loads of cash. EA has publicly been condemned, both in the US and internationally, for prominently featuring a mechanic in their games that allow players to pay real money in exchange for the chance of receiving an item of perceived value. This exploitive tactic, often referred to as a "loot box" or "loot boxes", is considered highly problematic by the UK government (and others) due to being inherently exploitive, often targeting children.
While legal proceedings such as this one are likely to be plentiful in the coming months, the most striking revelation to come out of today's testimony is just how deliberately tone-deaf and just outright dismissive EA is of the matter. For example, Kerry Hopkins - whom represented the company, stated that they [EA] don't refer to loot boxes as such. Why would they? That term carries a negative connotation at this point. Instead, they like to call them "surprise mechanics", which Hopkins likened to child-favorite toys such as Hatchimals or LOL Surprises that are designed to stimulate excitement through uncertainty.
Hopkins goes on to say that EA doesn't believe "surprise mechanics" constitute a form of gambling. In fact, the company's representative even goes as far as to claim that there isn't any evidence to indicate them being such.
As far as EA is concerned, their loot-boxes-that-shall-not-be-named provide an additional means for the player to have fun.
The packs, the surprise—that’s fun for people
Hopkins states, being wholeheartedly oblivious and clearly missing the point.
They like earning the packs, opening the packs, building the teams, trading the teams.
So there you have it. These meticulously crafted, weighted, and calculated "surprise mechanics" should never be misinterpreted as being deliberately or unintentionally predatory, and we are being ignorant for even thinking so.