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EA introduce preview packs in response to claims that Fifa includes a gambling mechanic

Do gambling mechanics belong in video games?

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Image Credit: Photo by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash

On Friday 18 June 2021, EA announced they have introduced ‘preview packs’ into Fifa. This change is believed to be the product of accusations that microtransactions in games – including Fifa’s pack system –  should be considered gambling, and subsequently banned.

The game allows gamers to purchase Fifa packs, either with real-world currency or in-game currency to anyone unfamiliar with Fifa. These packs would provide gamers with football cards of real-world players, to improve their teams. However, the players within the packs were completely random, with no refunds once a pack had been opened.

Following Friday’s introduction of pack previews, gamers can now preview packs before choosing to purchase. This change removes the chance aspect of packs at the point of purchase since gamers will already know what players they will receive should they buy.

In 2018, Belgium gaming authorities banned Fifa packs bought with real-world currency citing they were games of chance akin to gambling, with the legislation cited requiring “at least a minimal degree of chance in the outcome” for a product to be considered gambling.

EA may now choose to appeal Belgium’s ban on Fifa packs, arguing that the game of chance has been completely removed at the point of purchase.

Along with a challenge against the Belgium gaming authorities ruling, EA may choose to appeal decisions made by Chinese, Japanese and Dutch authorities, suggesting that their new system is not in any way a game of chance.

Whilst this new system of in-game purchases seems to distance itself from gambling, these changes are unlikely to please all gamers. The existence of in-game purchases will still give rise to a moral debate, especially in games such as Fifa which retain their age rating of three.  The last thing a parent wants is for their child to max a credit card out in-game purchases, especially where the content cannot be traded for real-world currency.

As well as continuing to discuss arguments surrounding gambling in games, the legal discussions surrounding the future of microtransactions in games shouldn’t be benched in favour of short-term solutions. EA has made it no secret that preview packs are in a trial run phase and the system may not stay.

Taking a cynical view, EA may simply be gauging a response and giving themselves or their legal team a break from the gambling debate. For now, it seems like the community takes a win over the corporate bigwigs, but what is being discussed behind closed doors should always be questioned…

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