Star Wars: Battlefront II was launched to much fanfare late last year but, after receiving mixed reviews, it then ran into trouble, with widespread criticism regarding the status of loot boxes in the game.
The issue of loot boxes and whether they should be considered gambling has been an issue for some time within the gaming world, but it seemed to come to a head with this particular product.
Inevitably, if children and gambling are mentioned in the same breath, then there is going to be a backlash, with politicians becoming involved.
Chris Lee, a Democratic politician in Hawaii accused the game’s makers of “predatory behaviour”, suggesting that the game is “designed to lure kids into spending money” and “a trap”.
Oskar Gabrielson, the general manager at DICE, the studio that built the game, has made it clear that the boxes may return at a later date, but the fact that they made such a dramatic U-turn shows the power of the public.
Violence in video games has been widely condemned by sections of the public over the years but it was always thought kids would be intelligent enough to make the separation between reality and the game they are playing.
But with gambling it is different, as, even using virtual money can sow the seeds of future gambling among kids and that has set off alarm bells.
There have been examples of gamers spending vast sums of money trying to unlock boxes to achieve a new level and it was good to see Gabrielson admit that his company made a mistake.
The debate over whether loot boxes should be thought of as gambling tools is not going to go away, with the UK Gambling Commission ruling that boxes do not come under its control because the rewards on offer were usable only in the game.
That may be a plus for the industry but, while a few states in the US have voiced opposition, Belgian’s Gaming Commission launched its own investigation into the issue.
It remains to be seen if there is ever any intervention at government level, but at this stage that seems unlikely.
Whether EA’s decision to shut the boxes down turns out to be a token effort only time will tell but it appears as though sections of the public have had enough and are genuinely worried about the effect that thry might have on the younger generation.
It will be interesting to see whether the next wave of blockbuster games contain loot boxes that require a financial contribution to unlock or if the makers revert to allowing gameplay to take its course.
‘Middle Earth: Shadow of War’s’ decision to include boxes opened up the debate but Battlefront II has taken it to a new level.
The powers that be might have made a temporary U-turn this time around but it may have to become permanent if sales fall due to the adverse effect of loot boxes.