EA Games: Fifa, Loot boxes and whales
The business of gaming is complex; ‘freemium’ on-line games are built on a model of allowing access to games for free, but then directing players towards in game purchases as well as accruing revenue from advertising. These, in themselves are controversial, especially where games are directed towards children. Recently the spotlight has shifted more specifically to ‘loot boxes’. These are in game purchasers where a buyer does not know the content of the box; will it be Lionel Messi to improve a football team, or a particular weapon or skill to help on a quest?
Recently the UK Parliament has been examining whether loot boxes should be regulated (they increasing elsewhere – see the articles below). Giving evidence before MPs Kerry Hopkins, A Vice President of EA games said that the boxes are ‘quite ethical and fun’ and ‘just like a Kinder egg’. And yet some are arguing they are gambling, encourage gambling, and succeed only because the games are designed to be addictive. Then there are the stories of gamers spending large amounts of money in the hope of getting something worthwhile in the loot box with the media very quick to report parents who have had their ‘bank accounts emptied’ by game-playing children. Perhaps the industry doesn’t help itself by characterising some gamers as ‘whales’ – the loyal gamers who account for a large amount of in game revenue.
So – is Kerry Hopkins right? Are loot boxes ‘quite ethical’?
Your task is to write a report to the senior management of a games company and set out the ethical argument and what a responsible approach to selling games could be. You are playing the role of an employee within the company who has been tasked to write the report for senior managers. It could be EA you are writing to, or it could be another company, the choice is yours
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