EA Accused Of Running "Unlicensed, Illegal Gaming System"

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Screenshot: EA’s Godfather

A pair of Canadians have filed a class action lawsuit against Electronic Arts, alleging that the company’s use of loot boxes violates the country’s Criminal Code.

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As The Patch Notes report, the civil action has been instigated by Mark Sutherland, who bought some stuff in Madden, and Shawn Moore, who did likewise in NHL. The suit seeks “damages for unjust enrichment arising from defendants’ operation of an illegal gambling system through the sale of so-called ‘loot boxes’ in popular video games.”

The “illegal” part comes from their belief that loot boxes, which can be bought without knowing what’s inside them, constitute gambling, and that EA doesn’t have the appropriate license to offer that in Canada.

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The suit covers not only Madden and NHL but a ton of other EA titles as well, ranging from mobile games to series like FIFA, Battlefield, Dragon Age and Mass Effect.

The case is awaiting EA’s response, but The Patch Notes—a legal blog—points out that unlike a lot of class action lawsuits, which can be hastily put together and as much about publicity as anything else, “This is not a self-represented litigant filing a nuisance lawsuit, but a well-pled claim brought by an experienced legal team who specializes in going after large corporations for stuff like this.”

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

It’s also happening outside the United States.

You know damn well the American government will never regulate the industry properly—the only time an American politician cares about video games is if he’s trying to shore up his base with white suburban women with kids by pushing the moral panic button, and loot boxes don’t really score on the moral panic scale (HINT for Americans trying to get them regulated. Use the tactics of people who are usually our enemies as gamers against them.)

But if Canada, the EU, and possibly a few Asian countries (Japan and South Korea for sure) all ban loot boxes, companies like EA/2K/Ubi will have to think twice about making games with them—even if they’re perfectly legal in the US, all AAA games these days more or less require a global market to make back their production and marketing costs.