Loot boxes are rightly in the spotlight at the moment, and recently lawmakers here in the UK had a few questions for reps from EA and Epic Games. Parliament's Digital Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee called the publishers to answer a multitude of game-related questions last week, and some of their answers were quite illuminating by the sounds of it.
Some lines of questioning were fairly benign, it would seem, but others focused on key issues that are impacting the industry right now. In particular, EA's VP of legal and government affairs, Kerry Hopkins, was there and gave some interesting answers with regards to loot boxes, or "surprise mechanics" as we're told they're called internally.
The link between loot boxes and gambling has been suggested before, but EA doesn't agree that there's a connection, and instead, they liken the practice to random toys sold in stores.
"It's something that's been part of toys for years, whether it's Kinder Eggs, or Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise," Hopkins explained to the parliamentary committee. "We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics ... is actually quite ethical and quite fun."
"We think it's like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and [customers] like the element of surprise."
The rep from Epic didn't come out much better, revealing just how little the company knew about the age of their core audience, or at least how little they were prepared for any kind of scrutiny during these public hearings. While he didn't say anything as noteworthy as his counterpart from EA, he did paint a picture that troubled committee chair Damian Collins:
"If I was a parent who was concerned about my child's use of Fortnite, I think listening to your testimony would not give me any encouragement at all that this was an issue that you cared about."
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