Electronic Arts is facing a new class action lawsuit over its use of loot boxes and other random-chance prize mechanics, which has the potential to be very costly for the mega publisher. According to the gaming-related law blog The Patch Notes, two Canadians from British Columbia and Ontario, Mark Sutherland and Shawn Moore, filed suit on September 30, arguing that loot boxes constitute gambling. This would mean EA is essentially running an unlicensed gambling business against Canadian regulations.
Now, here’s where things really get spicy – the lawsuit lists 60-some games dating back to 2008, including entries in the Madden, FIFA, Mass Effect, Need for Speed, Battlefield, and Apex Legends franchises, just to name a few. The plaintiffs are seeking more or less everything EA has made from loot boxes since 2008, which I don’t need to tell you, is a whole hell of a lot. At this point, around two-thirds of EA’s revenues are made via “live services,” most notably their Madden and FIFA “Ultimate Team” modes, which revolve around opening randomized loot-box-style card packs. Since this is a class action lawsuit, any Canadian who has spent money on EA loot boxes would stand to benefit if it’s successful.
So, what are the actual chances this will be successful? The plaintiffs have apparently hired a pretty legit team of lawyers, so they’re serious about this, but it’s still quite a longshot. EA will likely argue, as they have successfully in other countries, that the contents of loot boxes don’t actually have any monetary resale value, so they’re not on the hook. That said, while I doubt EA will have to pay back everything they’ve made from loot boxes, I do think there’s a pretty good chance this lawsuit will result in changes to the Canadian laws and regulations governing them.
It doesn’t seem EA has said anything publicly about this lawsuit yet, but they’ll have to file a response soon, at which point, the real legal wrangling begins.
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