Any video game enthusiast has already been confronted with being able to buy an item, a weapon or an accessory on his favorite game in order to advance faster in his favorite game.
For several years, a fashion has arrived called “loot boxes”.
A loot box is a purchase present in a game which allows you to obtain whether it is by virtual currency or euros, a chest, an object, a skin, players, characters… in a totally random way.
This mechanism has been around for many years, but in the last year or two it has been popularized by YouTubers and streamers. playing multiple video games.
Often, loot boxes are present in multiplayer video games and users who do not hand over the wallet are increasingly disadvantaged.
Initially, this kind of loot box was present in order to provide additional and additional content without necessarily giving an advantage to the players (skins and emotes very often). Today this is no longer the case, and the person who buys a lot of loot box will very often have an advantage against a player who does not consume any!
Video game publishers have therefore understood that chests and other random content providing an advantage to the player were increasingly popular!
It is therefore natural that in almost all the multiplayer games of 2021, we are entitled to these different loot boxes in the content.
It even becomes an obligation for some "free to play" publishers who play the majority of their profits on this kind of box.
There is one big catch though, which is that this is all still random content! There is therefore no knowledge of the probability of the gains following the purchase of the transaction. These chests or mystery boxes therefore do not generally provide any guarantee following the purchase. Of course, you know what you are buying, but what is less certain is the quality of the contents of the box which can give you a big advantage on your progress or on the contrary, nothing at all.
La random reward is therefore subject to chance, which further entices users to spend their money to get what they want.
Some games advocate the aspect of Pay To Win (pay to win). Indeed, on some games like FIFA for example, the more money you have (obtained by purchasing paid or non-paid random content packs), the more you will be able to obtain strong players who will allow you to win your match more easily even against a stronger opponent.
This situation therefore pushes players to spend their money in order to be on an equal level with all their opponents. It is therefore a consumption technique taken to the extreme where nothing is unfortunately controlled.
Each year, FIFA releases its new opus and again and again sets sales records. But where FIFA achieves its best figures, it is not with the sale of its games, no, but rather with its favorite game mode: Ultimate Team.
Since FIFA 09, players can play a game mode called FUT or Fifa Ultimate Team. The principle of this game mode is quite simple, achieve your dream team by obtaining cards representing the players (a bit like the concept of the panini card) with a rating that represents the level (ranging from 40 to 99). You can also personalize your field, your team, your jerseys with ITEMS cards to have your ULTIMATE team.
So you can have Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane, Messi, Ronaldinho and Valère Germain in the same team without any problem.
This game mode is constantly updated by game publisher EA Sports and you can get “upgrade” players who perform well in “real life”. Thus, players have content all the time that arrives in front of their eyes almost every day or even week.
Thus, the game mode has a virtual economy which is highly developed. There are even people who don't play the game and only use the fifa video game to make a profit by winning several hundred Euros each month.
To get players, you have to buy it. Each player has a price which varies according to several criteria (the date, the level of the player, his nationality, his championship, his skills…). To buy this player you must therefore spend “credits”, the virtual currency of the game. To obtain credits, you must either sell players or obtain virtual money depending on your performance in the game.
To get new players without using your performance, you also have the option of purchasing “packs” which are the equivalent of Panini pouches. You don't know which player is inside, you have no indication. The only indication you have is the rarity of the players inside (Bronze for players ranging from rating 40 to 60, silver for players ranging from 61 to 74, and gold ranging from note 75 to rating 99).
You will have understood that to obtain these packs you have two solutions, either buy a pack with your credits, or… buy the pack with your own money! If you want to know more, there are many fifa blog for example to learn more about this game mode.
You will understand, FIFA is therefore increasingly turning to a Pay To Win game. This fashion is also more thorough since the competition took a very important place in the competitive world.
As soon as the game is released, you have many Youtubers, Streamers and professional game players who put several thousand Euros in “opening pack”.
Getting the best players in the game will require patience, something competitive players in the game cannot afford, as the first competitions take place soon after the game is released. So the only way to compete is to pay very, very many packs in order to be lucky and get the best players for their team, or to have enough money selling their thousands of players to buy it on the market.
Gaming behaviors even more driven by videos on YouTube or some Youtubers take great pleasure in opening for more than € 2000 of FIFA packs in just a few hours.
Thus, the average player will also be forced to put money into the game, because everyone does it and he cannot compete in online matches, because he will not have a strong enough team from the start. and will quit the game quickly.
To fight against addiction problems, several countries have announced that they want to create measures to regulate the Loot-Box system of FIFA Ultimate Team. Following a petition that gathered 40 signatures, the British House of Lords (the equivalent of our Senate) demanded the passage of loot boxes under the legislation of games of chance and launched a major consultation to support its decision. Belgium and the Netherlands have gone even further and have decided to ban loot boxes, which makes the purchase of FIFA points impossible for citizens of these two countries.
However, the situation is not changing much in France, which is not involved as much as its neighbors. Indeed, theNational Games Authority (ex-ARJEL) does not yet consider FUT loot boxes as gambling even if it recognizes a risk of gambling addiction. ARJ therefore considers loot boxes to be a problem of consumption which falls under within the competence of the DGCCRF (General Directorate for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Control).
A cautious position which results in a status quo, however, several voices have been raised to protest, starting with that of the Swiss youtubeur Psyko17. Bringing together a community of more than 800 subscribers, the videographer decided to file a complaint against the unscrupulous methods of the American-Canadian publisher. Accompanied by two lawyers, he takes sides with players caught in the FUT gear who do not necessarily have the means to spend large sums in the game. Mr. Morand-Lahouazi thus denounces the fraudulent practices of EA Sports which do not does not hesitate to manipulate the transfer market by injecting it with elements that are supposed to be exclusively in the packs. The lawyer also evokes the faked probabilities of the pockets as well as the 000% tax on sales which expresses a "desire to regulate the market". He therefore qualifies these methods as a "deceptive commercial practice" and even a "fraud and fraudulent maneuver which creates the illusion to incite spending". By way of comparison, these practices are absolutely illegal in the world of financial markets.
John Charles, another YouTuber specializing in video games, says he has received more than 500 testimonials from players caught in the spiral of addiction. He shares several stories that have moved him like those of players who have spent huge sums of money without being able to get help from EA Sports. People who lose their savings, their personal possessions and even their marriages overnight. The YouTuber alerts public opinion by concluding as follows: “Playing video games should not be dangerous, we should be able to have fun without having to spend everything we earn. "
This phenomenon of loot boxes is all the more dangerous as it now extends to minors. Fond of video games and football, they do not necessarily have the necessary perspective to assess the potential danger of Ultimate Team loot boxes. Some young addicts even go so far as to steal their parents' bank cards to top up their FUT accounts with FIFA Points. How to explain that a video game classified PEGI3 can cause such family tragedies?
EA Sports is not helping its case and has even paid a bad buzz by promoting the purchase of FIFA points in a magazine aimed at British children. The developer thus presented an apology that turned out to be unconvincing and further tarnishes its reputation and communication. In 2019, a company executive provoked outrage and hilarity among members of the British Parliament by calling the loot boxes "ethical and fun mechanical surprises".
So what are the solutions to contain and control the phenomenon of loot boxes? In 2019, Electronic Arts drew the wrath of the Star Wars Battlefront II community. Indeed, players were indignant at having to go to the cashier to unlock characters and accessories. Without it, Battlefront II players are forced to spend thousands of hours of gameplay to get all of the game's content, creating an imbalance with those who have chosen to use the credit card. The Battlefront II community reacted quickly by protesting massively on social networks and specialized sites. Faced with this media storm, EA gave in and pulled the system from financial transactions from Star Wars Battlefront II.
The Star Wars Batllefront II example is cause for hope for FUT fans even though the battle is far from won. Despite its obvious flaws and unscrupulous business practices, FIFA remains one of the most valued cultural goods in France. In addition, it is in a virtual monopoly situation and does not have serious competition. Once appreciated by a large number of players, PES has gradually faded into oblivion and no longer stands up to FIFA. The year 2021 will have even been fatal for the license of Konami which gave up its name and its identity to become e-football. The players therefore have no other alternatives and are forced to buy FIFA again every year in September.
Another major problem, the FIFA community is far from being as tight-knit as that of Battlefront II. FIFA Ultimate Team being massively competitive oriented, players are constantly pitted against each other in order to earn the best possible rewards. A situation which does not encourage cohesion and rebellion against the Canadian publisher. Worse yet, this heightened competitiveness often results in inappropriate and toxic behavior, such as private threats and racist slurs. Yet committed to the fight against discrimination, EA Sports never took any drastic action against the perpetrators of these inappropriate comments.
But despite all these obstacles, the pressure shots are starting to arrive. Professional Schalke 04 player Tim Latza has declared that he no longer wants to inject FIFA points at the start of the game, arguing that the performance of the game does not depend on the bank balance. The French youtubeur Robert87000 (427 subscribers) follows suit and now bans the use of microtransactions in its content. Shock measures that could well serve as prevention and as an example for spectators.
Finally, the unknown publisher Strikerz announced last August the arrival of a newcomer in video game football simulations: UFL. Under development in 2016, the game was unveiled at the very famous and anticipated Gamescon. Focusing on multiplayer, UFL wants to compete e-football and FIFA for the next few years. To achieve this feat, Strikerz said he wanted to make the game completely free, including when adding new features. If the game manages to be interesting, it could very quickly become a serious threat to the FIFA license.