EA Accused Of Running ‘Unlicensed, Illegal Gaming System’

EA Accused Of Running ‘Unlicensed, Illegal Gaming System’
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.

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 licence to offer that in Canada.

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 — point 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-pleaded claim brought by an experienced legal team who specialises in going after large corporations for stuff like this.”


  • So, no more packs of trading cards, blind box figures, etc in Canada either?
    They’re also “bought without knowing what’s inside them”, and are often marketed towards children.

    • This has already been long debated and discarded as an argument when discussing loot boxes in games.
      Toys and trading cards have similarities to loot boxes but it’s the differences that draw criticism and scrutiny.

      • In my experience, the argument is discarded just like this, where nobody actually gives any reasons, and just says “no, that’s different”.

        The description the article gives for what constitutes gambling (which I quoted in my original post), applies to all forms of trading cards and blind boxes.

        • The reason is loot boxes use in game flashing lights and music to represent both buying, opening, and rewarding the player with items while using additional lights and music for rare and super rare items that can stimulate a brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol can.

          While physical trading cards can do the same in brain stimulation, the difference is vastly different due to the lack of flashing colours and music when you buy, open, and view cards inside. The act of handing over money or physically using a card to pay items can cause people refrain from buying addition packs, while being virtual… its a click of the button as its all connected to the online platform.

          The addition of increased stiulation to the brain can affect children worse due to the childs brain still being in development. This can have even greater adverse effects on them as they grow up causing them to being more subseptle to addiction etc.

          To coin a Civilisation term of ‘one more turn’ is very apt in this instance where the person buying loot boxes might fall into the trap of ‘one more draw’.

          • If you sold actual physical card packs (make them collectable also like magic cards or basketball cards) with a unique code that can be inputed into the game to show you have it ingame would help towards fixing this problem whilst also allowing companies to have a loot box option.

            By removing the online component of buying them and making them a physical item one needs to open can reduce the spend some people would do since you might be in a store buying them or having to wait for them to arrive as you ordered them online to arrive at your home.

            This would also allow people to sell the cards to other people where they use the unique code and can have an ingame Auth system from the company to transfer the item across digitally

        • Trading cards and blind box toys aren’t considered gambling because the sum of their parts fall short of the legal definition and already exist within that framework.

          Game based loot boxes are essentially a new thing whose parts share some similarities to the toys and cards but also parts of regulated gambling definitions while existing outside the current framework.

          The article is only stating the gist of the argument but no matter how you want to play it, the Trading Card and Blind box toy argument is irrelevant because the differences are night and day on two different planets.

        • The handling of duplicates is pretty different. If I open two packs of trading cards and get a duplicate, then I’ve got two of the same card. If I find someone who needs that card and has something I want, we can trade at full value.

          If I do the same with loot boxes, I generally end up with one item and a quantity of “dust” or “shards” that is worth substantially less. As I get closer to a full set, I’m more likely to get shards than a useful item. It becomes more of a gamble, the more I invest into the system.

          • This. Loot boxes don’t give ‘duplicates’, they show you a picture of a duplicate that you can’t own, trade, sell or blow your nose on. An image of a thing is not actually that thing. You can’t put two identical skins on your character, but you can wallpaper your house with duplicate Magic cards.

        • It was Death By Internet. They deemed it dead, therefore it must be dead. Right?
          I’m more or less with you on this karachiking. I worry that pushing this issue too far means it sets a precedent that goes beyond gaming.
          Theres an issue with this, dont get me wrong, but turning a blind eye to the same purchased randomness behind trading cards and the like is naive.
          The only relevant difference is that one is digital, one is physical but in todays world that difference doesnt have the relevance some think. But the psychological similarities mean trading cards create the same gambling culture as these do.
          Anyone old enough to have been through the MtG craze in the 90’s should remember the stories of kids pumping hundreds or thousands into card packs, just for the chance of a rare card they could sell. Cards that sell for upwards of US$150,000 even today.
          It was straight up gambling, and was seen as such at the time by plenty of people at the time.
          By the way, the Ooshies from Woolies are gambling as well. Add them to your list. Cant let people be spending $30 for just the chance of a new pencil ending thingy.
          I dont want any of those gone by the way. I also recognise that there IS a gambling side to the booster packs. But I also recognise that risk v reward is a basic survival instinct that people need to learn. There are ways to police this that doesnt see it gone either, whether thats through a 16+ rating, a daily spending limit, or some other way.
          But like you, I think straight out blocking them isnt the right answer, and sets a dangerous precedent that someone will push further. Now, lets wait for the expected arguments attacking my opinion, where they focus on just one or two lines in all that.

      • So if there was an in-game market where people could trade items, would it then be okay?

        And if being able to trade something means it’s not gambling, I can trade winnings from a pokie, so therefore that’s not gambling either?

        • Would make it better if there was a way to sell back the items to the game.

          Also, with stuff like card packs, you don’t have to buy them. You can get them given to you freely by friends etc.
          You haven’t already paid $60 /$100 on a card box and expected that that is all it was going to be. A card pack is an entire product, not little bits. There are other things which I can’t really be bothered going into.

          I can’t believe idiots like you compare microtransactions in a full priced game to a toy

    • At the risk of killing a sacred cow for gambling addicts in denial… if that was the cost of killing loot boxes? I’d gladly pay it and say that nothing of value was lost.

      I’ve seen more than enough pack-opening videos and it all reeks of exploitation as it is. They dangle something you want in front of you to lure you into buying shitloads of crap you don’t want. That’s vile. At least you can ebay the thing that you want at an absurd mark-up. Lootboxes? No, just keep pulling that one-arm bandit’s lever.

      Fuck paid lootboxes and any paid mechanics like them.

    • Trading Card exemption was a class action UNITED STATES OF AMERICA case. There is no eqivalent or matching legal precedent in the rest of the world. (Inc Canada)

      Also that precedent is outdated and honestly should be reviewed cause they no longer come in packs of gum!

      For most trading cards etc they are covered under general requirements under consumer law… and even then if a trading card manufacturer is proven fraudulent in their stated product released information its consumer fraud.

      Hell most gambling laws now a day, font ban gambling, they just regulate it to stop fraud and protect consumers.

      Are you against consumer protections?

    • Huge difference. Yet it sounds like you are not interesting in trying to understand those issues, but seemingly willing to defend EA. Fascinating.

  • Why EA… if your going to set a legal precedent, you need a target that isn’t armoured plated with lawyers and a bottomless war chest!

    2K with their slot machines in a Basketball game would of been softer. Its a 1 for 1 recreation of a slot machine.

    Or one of the mobile phone Gatcha game companies.

  • Hey Kotaku. Dunno if this is just a tablet thing, but could you knock it off with the volume on your ads (again) please? I want to like you guys, i really do. Also yeah, fuck EA etc…

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