Video game company Electronic Arts set off a massive backlash amid gamer concerns surrounding loot boxes, which can be bought using real life money to help get an advantage in game play. They can contain a wide array of different assets, weapons and other useful additions to help gain an edge. But gamers reacted with concern that the game play would be compromised by a paywall, even after spending the full $60 price tag for a complete game.
After a widespread public outcry, EA did pull the microtransaction program temporarily and said they have suspended any paid content.
While this may satisfy most gamers to start, the entire controversy has caught the eye of some governments. The Belgian government recently ruled that the use of loot boxes is a form of gambling, opening it up to additional regulations and a possible ban on the practice. The reason for this ruling is because people make a purchase without exactly knowing what they get.
Is the intervention by government really necessary in the video game industry though?
Most people can’t afford to dump good money repeatedly on a video game, but can be enticed after being hooked. Not only has video gaming become a booming industry, it’s also become a sport with certain games. E-sports have opened up a new level of excitement for gamers worldwide. As it continues to expand, companies seek new ways to cash in.
Loot boxes generally are not popular, and they were removed even before the Belgian government ruled against them. It wasn’t the government that reversed EA’s controversial practice, it was the people’s voices being heard. The consumers spoke out and made a difference on their own without government intervention.
A number of gaming experts recently announced the launch of the National Committee for Games Policy to regulate their own industry. The aim of the new entity promises two new functions. First, it will exist to provide accurate data to lawmakers and government agencies. It promises it will not take political positions or positions on controversial issues such as loot boxes, but it will try to eliminate misconceptions.
Second, it will take action against game companies that act unethically against the consumer. It will have a place for gamers to report certain practices and companies for investigation.
It remains to be seen if the National Committee for Games Policy will be successful, as it lacks the punch of the big hitters in the industry. But video game companies would be wise to embrace such a move, as they can self-regulate and come together before the heavy hand of big government comes sweeping in.
The problem here is the government trying to fix every little thing, when it appears the fix could very well break it even more. Sometimes it’s just best to let the consumers and industry work itself out. In this case, a company made a bad business move and the consumer base responded loudly. The result was victory for the people over the company. This all happening without the heavy hands of government getting involved.