Speaking to a UK parliamentary committee last week about the ongoing lootbox and game addiction controversy, EA made the very intrepid claim that lootboxes aren’t actually even lootboxes, but “ethical and fun” features that everybody totally loves. So that’s a unique new perspective for you.
The thing about quote-unquote “lootboxes”, according to the publisher’s legal rep Kerry Hopkins, is that randomised item purchases are surprises. Not lootboxes, obviously, because that’s a no-no word in game marketing now.
“That is what we look at as ‘surprise mechanics,'” she said. “It is important to look at this. If you go to – I don’t know what your version of Target is – a store that sells a lot of toys and you do a search for surprise toys, you will find that this is something people enjoy. They enjoy surprises. It is something that has been part of toys for years, whether it is Kinder Eggs or Hatchimals or LOL Surprise.”
She also described lootboxes randomised item purchases as something “ethical and fun” that “that people enjoy in a very healthy way” because “they like the element of surprise”.
Besides the fact that she’s comparing the average gamer with a three year-old kid (which I’ll concede isn’t necessarily inaccurate, and you know I don’t mean age) or the other fact that Kinder Eggs are banned in the US over choking hazard concerns, the assertion that what people want from a cheap toy is the same thing they want from a game is kind of questionable. Unless Hopkins thinks games are cheap toys, but that’s, like, a different discussion entirely and she’s wrong anyway because you can’t even eat a copy of FIFA 2019. Science.