Electronic Arts class-action suit — are loot boxes gambling or gaming?

loot boxes in online games

The Aug. 13 class-action lawsuit (Kevin Ramirez vs Electronic Arts) reflects the still unanswered questions about online game loot boxes in the U.S. and internationally. For several years, concerns that they may promote gambling rather than gaming have been debated.

Some countries have examined regulating loot boxes. Others are offering policy and implementation recommendations. And some countries are imposing restrictions or bans on loot boxes. 

On Aug. 7, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a workshop in Washington, D.C., on the implications of video game loot boxes and related microtransactions. The FTC has the matter under review is taking a close look at content creators and the platforms they use. 

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Also, the video game industry has engaged in some self-regulation, through the Entertainment Software Rating Board (“ESRB”) rating system, in some cases disclosures of in-game purchase odds and parental control features. 

Pending actions in the US

A class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Aug. 13, 2020. Kevin Ramirez vs Electronic Arts, Inc., is the latest in a flurry of lawsuits, which are challenging the online gaming loot box phenomenon, game developers, platforms and app stores that make them available to consumers.