A new lawsuit alleges that EA is artificially inflating difficulty in its sports titles in order to drive players to buy more loot boxes.
Update: EA has issued the following statement on the lawsuit to Screen Rant: “We believe the claims are baseless and misrepresent our games, and we will defend.”
EA is facing a lawsuit which claims that it’s using adaptive difficulty settings to push loot boxes in its sports video games. The video game developer manages several big-name sports franchises, like NHL and UFC, the rights to which EA recently renewed for several more years.
This isn’t the first time EA has struggled with legal issues over its loot boxes. Last month, a court in the Netherlands found that the loot box system constituted a form of gambling which was illegal in the country. The ruling stated that EA would be fined €500,000 for every week that the offending loot boxes remained in the game. It’s far from the first time EA has been in hot water over loot boxes. There aren’t many gamers around today who don’t remember the infamous Star Wars: Battlefront 2 debacle. EA ran wild with microtransactions in that game, to the point where players who hadn’t invested in them were at an untenable disadvantage against players who had. This controversy irreparably tainted the game’s reputation, and even after some impressive post-launch support, it’s widely regarded as a massive failure.
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Now EA is facing even more controversy over its loot boxes. GamesIndustry.biz reports on this new lawsuit, filed in the US District Court of Northern California. EA is being accused of using its patented “Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment” technology to inflate difficulty in-game. The tech is supposed to adapt to the player’s skill level, making the game easier if the player is struggling or harder if it seems like the player isn’t facing any challenge. Plaintiffs Jason Zajonc, Danyael Williams, and Pranko Lozano claim that EA is instead using this system to inflate difficulty and convince fans that their virtual players aren’t skilled enough, thus driving them to buy Player Pack loot boxes and get more powerful teammates. Madden NFL, FIFA, and NHL are all involved in this lawsuit.
It’s no secret that these games have major issues. Madden and NHL have both been lambasted in reviews for changing basically nothing from previous games in the series, refusing to innovate, and in some cases actively getting worse through major bugs. FIFA, meanwhile, is suffering from a multiplayer ranking system so unbalanced that players are intentionally relegating themselves to lower ranks. But this new issue, if it proves true, is far from a simple bug or ill-advised design choice. This is an actively malicious ploy designed to maximize profits, directly costing players both money and enjoyment in the process.
These ongoing loot box lawsuits are a boon for players, who’ve complained for years about their inclusion throughout the gaming industry. Many would agree that the ideal gaming environment is devoid of microtransactions entirely, and loot boxes are an especially egregious example. If loot boxes must be included in games, though, they certainly shouldn’t be the focus of such sinister schemes as this. One only hopes that the outcome of this trial will lead to a better gaming experience, not just in EA titles, but in the entire gaming industry.
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