Canadian Lawsuit Brought Against EA’s Loot Boxes

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Electronic Arts in Canada.  The case revolves around EA’s use and offering of loot boxes in its various games.  Loot games are described, within the context of the lawsuit, as “a game of chance inside a videogame.”  This claim, according to the defendants, constitutes being a form of gambling that is unlawful.

Canadian lawmakers stated that gaming was strictly licensed and controlled in their country.  The loot boxes the defendants participated in was a gregarious breach of Canadian laws.  The named defendants operated a gaming system that was unlicensed through their loot boxes.

With the filing of the lawsuit, Canada and its consumers are seeking to hold the named defendants entirely accountable for their unlawful conduct in an attempt to recoup their losses.

The suit itself has been filed on behalf of two different plaintiffs—one located in British Columbia and the other located in Ontario.  Through EA’s Madden NFL and NHL series, each plaintiff were offered and subsequently purchased loot boxes.

The two games specifically named in the suit are not the only ones involved.  There is a list of approximately 21 individual games currently on the list.  What is even more interesting about the lawsuit is that the game Star Wars Battlefront 2, which was one of the main contributors to kicking off the backlash over the loot boxes, is not present on the games list.

The lawsuit also states that “loot boxes are considered part of the compulsion loop of game design to keep players invested in the game.”

The suit went on to say that these types of compulsion loops contribute in a significant manner to the addiction to videogames—so much so that they are most often compared to addictions to gambling.

The mechanism uses that variable-rate reinforcement schedule very similar to those used by slot machines that dole out prizes.   This attraction is especially dangerous for drawing in children.  The element of randomly winning an item from the loot box will likely entice players to pay for the chance.

The lawsuit purports that EA’s game function in a similar fashion with their loot boxes, with the note, that when purchased, the payment is made with real money or that of virtual currency.  The suit also mentioned that some of the loot boxes provided in-game advantages, making their appeal even more desirable to the players. 

With that said, the claim gives the implication that even those that don’t affect overall gameplay can still provide a somewhat insidious attraction.