In a recent ruling by a minor court in Austria, FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) packs have been deemed to be a kind of gambling, which is against the country’s strict regulations. This move was taken after several players filed a lawsuit against the FUT system, arguing that it was unfair and depended on chance.
The court concurred, noting that the randomization of FUT packs, which may include in-game material with a value more than or less than the pack’s total value, constituted a significant infringement of the Austrian Gaming Act. After that investigation, the randomness of FUT packs was found to be a serious violation of the Austrian Gaming Act.
What This Means for Loot Boxes
Since loot boxes have been a contentious issue in the gaming community for so long, this ruling has significant repercussions outside the gaming world.
Since 2008, players of the FIFA series have been able to purchase FUT packs. These are essentially loot boxes in the form of trading cards that include in-game currency such as players and other consumables used to build a squad of virtual football superstars. However, the cost may quickly add up as players are urged to keep purchasing packs until they have the strongest squad possible.
This ruling is in line with other recent anti-loot box measures in Europe. A recent one was a court ruling in the Netherlands in 2020 that fined FIFA publisher EA for every week it sold loot boxes in FIFA Ultimate Team, which were considered to constitute gambling and were therefore illegal in that country. While this ruling was ultimately reversed later, it has encouraged regulatory organizations to take a closer look at loot boxes and their influence on players.
Consequences for the Gaming Companies
Several gamers launched the action in Austria because the FUT system violated the country’s stringent gambling regulations. Sony was found legally responsible for the gamers’ losses of €338.26, a considerable victory for the plaintiffs. Wherever the lawsuit leads, it’s a good indicator that regulators are paying notice and are prepared to act.
Consumer advocacy organizations in Europe have been pushing for the elimination of “predatory” loot boxes in video games, but it’s unclear whether big publishers would just ignore the new laws prohibiting gambling in video games.
For now, it seems as though FUT packs will continue to be included in the next video game releases. The ruling by the Austrian court, along with others like it, may, however, prompt game creators to rethink their loot box systems and look for methods to make the process more balanced for players.