A report on loot boxes, authored by the Norwegian Consumer Council, has slammed FIFA 22 packs for pressuring players into making in-game purchases and being misleading about their odds of getting particular rewards.
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Published yesterday (May 31), the report offers an investigation into “how the gaming industry exploits consumers using loot boxes” and uses two games – FIFA 22 and Raid: Shadow Legends – as case studies embodying the industry’s “manipulative” practices regarding loot boxes.
The NCC says the practice often involves “targeting loot boxes and manipulative practices at kids” and using “layers of virtual currencies to mask or distort real-world monetary costs”.
The report goes on to identify FIFA 22 as a case study for this behaviour, and accuses developer EA of employing “a wide arsenal of tricks to push consumers into spending as much time and money as possible exploiting consumers hope to receive the reward despite a miniscule chance and likelihood to do so.”
FIFA 22 allegedly markets its packs by aggressively trying to trigger players’ fear of missing out, and the report claims EA’s transparency mechanics are “meaningless probability disclaimers” that do not actually tell players the specific probability of getting desired 90+ rated cards.
Going on, the NCC claim that even when players get their desired reward from a pack, they rarely stay valuable due to “power creep over the FIFA gameplay cycle” that slowly introduces stronger and stronger cards.
“This creates a continuous gameplay loop, where players are continuously encouraged to open packs in the hope of obtaining upgraded cards to keep up with other players,” condemns the report.
It’s also alleged that because FIFA‘s pack probabilities are “dynamically generated”, they “can potentially be manipulated in real time based on any number of factors, all with the objective of incentivizing and maximizing spending”. The NCC allege that players on the verge of halting purchases to a run of bad luck could be artificially given a high-value card to draw them back, and say a lack of adequate transparency measures means this is entirely possible.
Summarising, the NCC say “the probability of obtaining high-value cards is exceedingly low, and it is impossible for the player to know how much money they would need to spend to obtain certain cards.”
Referring to both FIFA 22 and Raid: Shadow Legend, the report says “it appears obvious that the design and mechanisms driving in-game purchases in these games are predatory, manipulative, and exceedingly aggressive, targeting consumer vulnerabilities at every opportunity.”
The report has been backed by 20 consumer groups across 18 companies, and every backer has urged governments across the world to regulate loot boxes. Following the NCC’s findings, the report calls for gaming companies to be banned from “using deceptive design to exploit consumers” and says in-game currencies should “always be denominated in real-world currency.”
It adds that games likely to be played by minors should not offer loot boxes for real money, nor should they include pay-to-win mechanics. The report also calls for more transparency on algorithms and better ways for consumer enforcement authorities to enforce these rules.
If these steps do not alleviate the issues identified, the NCC says governments should “consider a ban of paid loot boxes”.