Juneau, AK (KINY) - Those shopping for video games during the holiday season may want to know about an issue surrounding one of the most popular titles.
Making headlines all over the world, Star Wars Battlefront 2, a game touting one of the most successful franchises in history, is at the center of a controversy regarding its "loot box" system. This system offers players randomized in-game advantages in exchange for large amounts of time or additional payments of money. Many have been critical of these micro-transactions in gaming, but the debate is starting to reach the government level in places like Belgium, New Zealand, and for the first time in the US, Hawaii.
Hawaii's State Representative Chris Lee spoke about the game as part of a press event that was also released as a highlight video titled "Highlights of the EA Predatory Behavior Announcement", which was published on his YouTube Channel. EA being Electronic Arts, the publisher of Star Wars Battlefront 2; the game was developed by EA DICE.
"This game is a Star Wars themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money. It's a trap."
He went on to say how their legislature might get involved.
"We’re looking at legislation this coming year which could prohibit access or prohibit the sale of these games to folks who are under age in order to protect families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms in those games," said Lee. "We've been talking with several other states as well, legislators there, who are looking at the same thing. I think this is appropriate time to make sure that these issues are addressed before this becomes the new norm for every game."
The game is rated "T for Teen" by the ESRB (the Entertainment Software Rating Board), but with gambling designs built into the game, Lee thinks it shouldn't be sold to anyone under 21, mirroring gambling laws in Hawaii.
Currently, the loot box system has been taken out of Star Wars Battlefront 2, following the backlash. However, official statements on the matter suggest those systems will return at a later date.
Here is that statement in full from Oskar Gabrielson, GM, DICE:
Thank you to everyone in our community for being the passionate fans that you are.
Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks.
But as we approach the worldwide launch, it's clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right.
We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.
We have created a game that is built on your input, and it will continue to evolve and grow. Star Wars Battlefront II is three times the size of the previous game, bringing to life a brand new Star Wars story, space battles, epic new multiplayer experiences across all three Star Wars eras, with more free content to come. We want you to enjoy it, so please keep your thoughts coming. And we will keep you updated on our progress.
For parents shopping for their kids here in Alaska, it's important to be educated on the games being played. Loot Box systems are starting to turn up more and more in popular games, systems that are probably not ideal to expose young ones to. If in doubt, ask someone who knows about games or do some research online.
As a side note, we have reached out to Alaskan Representatives about the issue to see if Alaskan lawmakers have discussed the matter, but have yet to receive any commentary.
It's rare for the government to get involved with video games. There have been court cases over the years, like the one that led to the creation of the ESRB in 1994 or the more recent 2011 case where the Supreme Court ruled that games were a protect form of speech like other forms of art. Loot Box and other forms of micro-transactions in games reaching any level of legislature is odd, but shows a collective rejection of the practice.
Here is a broad list of titles with Loot Box systems in place from Giant Bomb, focusing on newer titles.