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Groups urge FTC to probe ‘loot box’ on FIFA video game

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Consumer advocates on Thursday urged US regulators to analyze video game maker Electronic Arts for the misleading use of a digital “loot box” that “aggressively” urges players to spend more cash while playing a preferred soccer game.

The groups Fairplay, Center for Digital Democracy and 13 other organizations urged the Federal Trade Commission to probe the EA game “FIFA: Ultimate Team.”

In the sport, players construct a soccer team using avatars of real players, and compete against other teams. In a letter to the FTC, the groups said the sport normally costs $50 to $100 but that the corporate would push players to spend more while they played.

“It entices players to purchase packs looking for special players,” said the letter sent by these groups together with the Consumer Federation of America and Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health and others.

The packs, or loot boxes, are packages of digital content sometimes purchased with real money that give the purchaser a possible advantage in a game. They might be purchased with digital currency, which may obscure how much is spent, they said

The packs, or loot boxes, are packages of digital content sometimes purchased with real money that give the purchaser a possible advantage in a game. REUTERS

“The probabilities of opening a coveted card, comparable to a Player of the Yr, are miniscule unless a gamer spends hundreds of dollars on points or plays for hundreds of hours to earn coins,” the groups said within the letter.

The letter also linked the loot boxes to gambling.

“In some cases, young individuals who have already developed problem gambling behaviors search out games with loot boxes; for others, loot boxes are a gateway to problem gambling,” they wrote.

The FTC, which fits after firms that engage in deceptive behavior, held a workshop on loot boxes in 2019. In a “staff perspective” which followed, the agency noted that video game microtransactions have grow to be a multi-billion-dollar market.

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