A class action lawsuit has been brought against Electronic Arts in California, claiming that the publisher’s Ultimate Team modes breach the state’s gambling laws.
EA’s Ultimate Team packs used in the FIFA and Madden games constitute gambling in violation of California law, plaintiff Kevin Ramirez alleges in court documents seen by VGC. The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial and damages of $5 million.
The case was brought by Ramirez on behalf of a proposed class of more than 100 others, on August 13 in the Northern District of California. The same law firm also filled a class action against Apple in June for its use of loot boxes in California.
It alleges that EA “relies on creating addictive behaviors in consumers to generate huge revenues” and that EA’s Ultimate Team Packs “are predatory and designed to entice gamers to gamble.”
“EA’s Ultimate Team Packs are Loot Boxes. Buying the Packs are nothing more than a gambling bet,” the case claims. “Purchased using real money, the Ultimate Team Packs are simply wagers on completely randomized chances within the game to win valuable professional players and other items for the EA gamer’s virtual sports team.”
Ramirez claims he has been induced to spend money to purchase Ultimate Team packs and estimates he has spent in excess of $600 in FIFA and Madden since 2011.
California’s definition of gambling defines an illegal gambling device as “a machine, aperture, or device; something of value is given to play; and the player may receive something of value by element of chance.”
“None of these elements can be in dispute,” reads the filing. “A gamer uses his console, computer, smartphone or tablet with the EA sports franchise game on it (#1); the gamer pays real-world currency for the opportunity to open an Ultimate Team Pack (#2); and the Ultimate Team Pack is a randomized chance to win something valuable in-game.”
There is currently no legal consensus in the US on whether loot boxes constitute gambling.
However, the case references places where the mechanic has been classed as gambling, such as in Belgium where games such as FIFA were blocked from selling loot boxes.
It also references a September 2019 report from the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which advised the UK government to regulate loot boxes under gambling law and ban them from sale to children.
In January, UK trade body Ukie launched the ‘Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. Campaign’, which is designed to help parents promote healthy gaming using console safety features.
And in April the Pan European Game Information rating system introduced additional information on physical game packaging and on digital storefronts for titles which include in-game purchases that include random items like loot boxes or card packs.
Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo announced last year that they were planning to introduce new policies that require games made for their consoles to disclose loot box odds beginning in 2020.