Responding to claims that Star Wars: Battlefront II promotes gambling, Electronic Arts (EA) put out a statement last week defending the use of in-game purchases.
- American video game company, Electronic Arts (EA), issued a statement defending the use of in-game purchases
- Star Wars: Battlefront II is the latest game to come under fire for gambling
- EA have removed temporary micro-transactions, a move that Lucasfilm and Disney support
In a recent review, Andrew Reiner calls the game “big, bombastic and fun, [but] diseased by an insidious micro-transaction model”.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Gaming Commission announced it would be launching an investigation into the ‘loot boxes’ in Battlefront II and Overwatch (Blizzard). Even French politician Jerome Durain weighed in by writing a letter to ARJEL, his country’s gambling authority, describing his concerns on the subject.
So, what’s all the fuss about?
Battlefront II allows players to collect credits by completing campaigns. Gamers can then spend these rewards to unlock new items and characters in the game.
You might say that there’s nothing new about this. However, the controversy stems from the fact that the items in each loot box are random and allegedly therefore introduce a level financial risk.
Players and reviewers also took issue with the way in which earning credits through sheer gameplay took several hours, while EA also placed a cap on the number of credits earned per day. This meant that if you wanted to carry on progressing through the game after earning your daily allowance, the only way to do so would be to buy more.
Yet another issue was that many deemed it unfair to include in-game purchases in a title that costs £49.99-£69.99 in the UK, or $60 in the US.
What constitutes gambling?
For a video game (or parts of it) to be classed as gambling by law, three factors must be in place: consideration, chance, and prize. The consideration element lies in paying money to participate in a game. Chance is any random element that can affect the outcome, and the prizes are the game’s rewards.
While the likes of Durain don’t seem to have anything against either video games or gambling per se, their concerns lie in the fact that Battlefront II isn’t subject to the same level of regulation as casino gaming.
Why EA says Battlefront II is NOT gambling
Battlefront II may appear to have all the elements of gambling listed above, but as the EA statement points out, the difference lies in how players are guaranteed to receive content that will help them make their way through the game.
In fact, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has also stated that the guarantee of a return means games with these types of loot boxes cannot be classed as gambling.
EA also says that players are not obliged to buy credits to progress in Battlefront II; instead, they can do so by pure gaming prowess.
What could the investigation in Belgium mean for EA?
If the Belgian Gambling Commission rules against in-game purchases, it’s possible that EA’s and Blizzard’s games would disappear from sale in the country, while the companies themselves could face heavy fines.
EA initially reacted to growing pressure from governments and gambling authorities by reducing the number of credits needed to unlock rewards by 75%, just before the game’s release on November 17.
A day before the game became available, EA announced that it would remove the ability to purchase Battlefront II ‘crystals’ - an in-game currency that players could buy with real money, and then use them to buy loot boxes full of purely random items. These boxes still play a part in the game, but players can only unlock them through effective gameplay.
Star Wars makers, Lucas films and its parent company Disney, support EA’s removal of temporary micro-transactions. Keen to protect their intellectual property, a spokesperson for Lucas films said the company supported the move because "Star Wars has always been about the fans” in whichever form it takes.
However, gamers haven’t seen the last of in-game purchases. EA says it plans to bring them back following “tweaks” to ensure its games comply better with the wishes of both gamers and the authorities.