Loot boxes and blind packs have long been a subject of debate in games, particularly with how they impact kids. One of Electronic Arts’ top executives has stated that children should never spend money on the FIFA Ultimate Team game mode. EA’s Chief Experience Officer Chris Bruzzo defended the game’s loot box system during an interview with Eurogamer, describing the mechanic as a creative choice mimicking real-life sports. While Bruzzo highlighted some of the work that EA is doing to help curb gambling addiction, he was also reluctant to call the loot box system outright gambling.
Bruzzo has managed a variety of roles in the FIFA franchise for over seven years, ranging from marketing to business. He highlights that, in the past year, over 100 million people played FIFA “in some form or another,” and that the game’s Ultimate Team mode is the most popular.
However, the game mode has caused quite a bit of controversy in the past due to its inherent pay-to-win nature, so much so that an EA employee was investigated for allegedly selling Ultimate Team cards for upwards of €1,000. There is even a pretty significant black market for the game, as evidenced by a Ukrainian police raid back in July that uncovered thousands of PS4s farming FUT coins—FIFA‘s earnable in-game currency.
Asked about the controversy surrounding FIFA‘s loot box system, Bruzzo initially tried to bring up how the negative comments had affected him and the FIFA development team. When pressed further, Bruzzo compared the game’s loot box system to real-life football:
So in fact, that whole gamification of what it means to have a different roster of players coming from different backgrounds, with scarcity, with not the ability to just you know, grab Lionel and put him on PSG. In fact, we have created these things over a long period of time to actually mirror what it feels like, the tough strategic choices you have to make when you’re putting a squad together that works uniquely as that squad you want to manage, that you want to play with.
Furthermore, Bruzzo noted on multiple occasions that “nine out of ten FUT packs are opened with coins.” Bruzzo adds that the ability to buy loot boxes that have a chance of containing valuable players was “player choice.” When pointed out how loot boxes can lead to gambling addiction, Bruzzo also mentioned that there “isn’t a consensus at this point”—conveniently ignoring the fact that several reputable organizations have “robustly verified” a link between loot boxes and gambling. Strangely, Bruzzo then stated that EA is “taking action” by raising awareness and engaging in solutions, seemingly admitting that there is, in fact, at least somewhat of a gambling problem in FIFA.
Children are at a particularly high risk of becoming gamblers as a result of loot box systems. In response, Bruzzo stated that “kids should not be spending in FIFA full stop.” He clarified that accounts under 18 are unable to spend money by default. Bruzzo also apologized for a FIFA advertisement that went up in a toy catalog earlier this year, stating that it was “an oversight” by his team.