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EA Leak Reveals The Dark Truth About Loot Boxes We Always Suspected

Loot boxes are typically the elephant in the gaming room. For a fee, players can open these digital boxes and receive a random piece of loot. There's no telling what users will find inside, but gamers can still rely on loot boxes for two things: game publishers defending them, and studies linking them to gambling. However, while many companies plead innocence, one leaked document seemingly implicates a publisher in a plot to encourage mass loot box purchases via a popular sports game.

Recently, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) published a bombshell article regarding a 54-page internal document leaked from the heart of EA's Sports division. According to the article, the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode in "FIFA 21," which relies on loot boxes, is a "cornerstone" of the game, and one bullet point stated the company is "doing everything [it] can to drive players there." 

How? By using "content teasers" to "drive excitement & funnel players towards FUT from other modes," as well as actively messaging players and incentivizing them to "convert." EA's "FIFA" mantra can be summarized by the title of one document page: "All roads lead to FUT."

The CBC received the leaked information from an unnamed insider who was "compelled" to share, mainly due to the growing number of studies linking loot boxes to problematic gambling. Moreover, the informant admitted that projects with loot boxes put a bad taste in their mouth, but they couldn't do anything about it because "at the end of the day, [the] company is trying to make money and satisfy investors."

Initially, EA refused to comment on the leaked document. A spokesperson stated it was "marked privileged and confidential," and that the outlet's analysis was "misinformed" because the pages were "viewed without context." 

That was the last word before GamesIndustry.biz interviewed FIFA's Vice President of Brand David Jackson. He defended the document and accused outlets that covered the news, including the CBC, of "sensationalist reporting." According to Jackson, the document was part of a "specific campaign" designed for the summer of 2020, and that reports took its bullet points out of context. 

For instance, Jackson claimed the "incentivized to convert" line actually referred to converting "FIFA 20" players to "FIFA 21." He also stressed that FUT receives the most content updates because it is designed to encourage player engagement, not player spending. According to Jackson, "[EA] never push[es] people to spend money in the game." However, GamesIndustry.biz countered that FUT, by its very nature, centers around monetization.

Whether or not you believe Jackson, EA has still amassed the ire of gamers due to its past loot box practices with games like "Star Wars: Battlefront 2." Those gripes appear to be continuing with the latest installments of the "FIFA" franchise.