EA and DICE are not out of the woods when it comes to the whole loot box debate, no matter how much the ESRB and the ESA say that premium loot boxes aren't gambling. Well, even though lawmakers are still prepping bills and looking to regulate the industry, EA and DICE are already talking about loot boxes for the next Battlefield game.
According to USGamer, Electronic Arts and DICE will include premium loot boxes in the upcoming Battlefield game due out this fall. The game will apparently contain cosmetic-only loot boxes as a middle ground to help bolster EA's profits but also not anger gamers. The outlet was reportedly told by someone close to the project...
The article notes that Battlefield 1 also contains loot boxes, but they were added in post-launch. This seems like an extremely risky maneuver given that lawmakers are currently working on bills to curb the inclusion of premium loot boxes in games aimed at children. Although, to be fair Battlefield 1 was aimed at the 17+ crowd given its Mature rating.
If the bills are successfully passed they would prevent gamers from under the age of 21 from purchasing titles that contain premium loot boxes. Games containing premium loot boxes would also have to have very clear and conspicuous labels on them advertising that the games do indeed contain paid microtransactions in the form of loot boxes.
These labels and restrictions also apply to standard casino gambling, where real money is used. Technically these laws wouldn't be new, but would rather be enforcing standard casino gambling regulation practices within the United States. Two years ago the Washington State Gambling Commission came down on Valve for allowing third party proprietors to sell... that's right, loot boxes.
According to the Washington State Gambling Commission, spending money on and betting on premium loot boxes outside of state regulatory practices for gambling was considered illegal, and the commission had Valve send out cease and desist notices to individual loot box websites where you could spend real money to acquire loot boxes with high-value content. Funnily enough, the state commission did not buy the excuse that loot boxes were not gambling because you always get something in return. While you do always get something in return, the commission felt that the act of spending real money on a randomized reward constituted gambling.
Lawmakers are now looking to impede the implementation of premium loot boxes in boxed products aimed at kids. The biggest issue was when the loot boxes popped up in games like Star Wars: Battlefront II, which was rated 'T' for Teen. I imagine EA will receive little push-back from gamers for including cosmetic loot boxes in a game like the upcoming Battlefield, which is due out this fall. Blizzard has a similar implementation of cosmetic loot boxes in Overwatch, which is also rated 'T' for Teen.
The real question is whether or not lawmakers will let the cosmetic-only loot boxes slide or if they will target those as well?