There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the system of loot boxes in gaming in recent years. Essentially, loot boxes are a form of in-game transaction that do not have their contents revealed before purchase. As such, getting an item of choice is left up to chance, leading to some people spending quite a lot of money before they finally attain what they are after. Following the backlash against this system, some companies have even made specific note of mentioning that no loot boxes will be present in their games, such as Square Enix with its upcoming Marvel's Avengers.
However, other developers, like EA, have continued to include this mechanism in massively popular titles such as FIFA 19. The Ultimate Team mode in the game consists of a card-purchasing option, which provides buyers with random players whose ratings are based on the rank (such as bronze, silver, gold) of the card that they purchase.
Now, as per BBC, four children seems to have taken this a step - or a couple hundred steps - too far. Observing their father make a purchase in-game, they went on to use his bank account details to spend £550 (~$690), emptying their parents' bank account in the process.
Thomas Carter, the children's father, bought them a single £8 (~$10) pack for Fifa 19 on their Nintendo Switch. However, he did not realize that they'd observed how the process of purchase had taken place. Coupled with the lack of precautions taken, such as no unique PIN number being used and emailed receipts being sent to an older inbox, the children were able to gain access to their parents' bank account, unbeknownst to Mr. Carter or his wife.
The children, all four of whom were aged under 10, were after Lionel Messi, the joint highest-rated player in the game, and were not willing to give up until they'd achieved him from a player pack. Therefore, they went on to make a number of purchases over the next three weeks to fulfill their wish. As it turned out, even after spending a grand total of £550, they were still unable to experience unpacking a Messi card.
Mr. Carter and his wife did not realize what had happened until their card was declined due to their bank account being empty. The children's Switch was immediately confiscated and Nintendo were contacted; the gaming company agreed to refund all the purchases, removing all the purchased players from the account in question. Mr. Carter still voiced concerns regarding loot box systems, noting, "You pay £40 (~$50) for the game, which is a lot of money in itself, but then the only way to get a great team is essentially by gambling".
EA does have very clear guidelines for parents to control in-game purchases made through their children's accounts, and there is no doubt that in this case, the father was at fault for not implementing precautionary measures. However, the wider debate regarding the implications of loot boxes as a form of gambling, and its effects on young children, remains to be as controversial as ever.
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