While loot boxes are not quite banned in the country, an Austrian court has ruled that the ones offered by FIFA are a form of gambling and must be categorized as such.
The ongoing debate about the so-called in-game items and whether they should be considered a form of gambling could take a massive step forward after a recent ruling of an Austrian court.
The issue regarding loot boxes in video games was given a start after a group of FIFA players in Austria, including one minor, took Sony to court after losing massive amounts of money on the card packs offered by FIFA Ultimate Team – an equivalent to loot boxes. It was not revealed why the platform holder Sony was targetted by the plaintiffs, and not the publisher of the game Electronic Arts, but the court sided with the plaintiffs and stated that loot boxes should be constituted as an illegal form of gambling.
Sony has been ordered by the court to refund the plaintiffs a total of €338.26.
According to the court’s decision, since the content of a certain loot box is determined by chance and can be potentially worth more or less than the amount paid by a player, that means that the country’s gambling laws are violated by so-called loot boxes – a form of in-game items. For the time being, Austria has not unveiled any plans to implement a nationwide ban on loot boxes, already the Netherlands and Belgium have done so. However, under the court’s ruling, the FIFA Ultimate Team packs are required to be now classified as a form of gambling that requires an operating permit.
It is yet unclear whether the court’s decision would make Electronic Arts cease the sale of its games in Austria rather than simply comply with the country’s legislation.
FIFA Ultimate Team Packs Still Associated with Games of Chance
FIFA Ultimate Team packs are a main money generator for Electronic Arts and have often been associated with a game of chance. The value of the packs offered by the game varies and does not always reflect the money that customers spent when purchasing them.
The game’s developer has responded to the debate regarding the fate of the so-called loot boxes to remind parents that they should not leave their children to purchase the packs alone. However, a former employee of the video game developer who got caught selling rate Ultimate Team cards for real cash basically showed that Electronic Arts is aware of the fact there is a small difference between the aforementioned backs and gambling, if there is one at all.
According to reports, Sony has only faced an order to refund a small number of people, since the legal action was filed only by a small group of plaintiffs. However, the company is expected to appeal the Austrian court’s decision because not doing so is likely to set a precedent that will make it possible for more lawsuits to follow in the months and years to come.
So far, neither Electronic Arts nor Sony has issued a public response to the news of the court’s ruling. FIFA, on the other hand, is not likely to release a public statement because it has already parted ways with Electronic Arts.