Sony Faces Austrian Loot Box Gambling Fine In Judge’s Ruling

Posted on: March 6, 2023, 06:49h. 

Last updated on: March 17, 2023, 02:13h.

An Austrian court judge recently decided that the Ultimate Team player packs in FIFA 23 constitute as gambling. Now Sony is going to have to break out its wallet.

Sample player options in the FIFA 23 video game Ultimate Pack
Sample player options in the FIFA 23 video game Ultimate Pack. An Austrian court judge has ruled that they’re a form of gambling. (Image: Electronic Arts)

Late last week, a judge ruled that the Ultimate Team packs are a form of gambling.  Therefore, EA and Sony are offering an illegal product in Austria, the judge ruled. Now anyone who purchased one of the packs is entitled to a refund, although an appeal is likely on its way.

The ruling stems from a 2020 lawsuit in 2020 against video game developer Electronic Arts (EA) and Sony in Austria accused the two of offering online gambling through loot boxes. The lawsuit was led by a group of players, including a minor, who spent over €400 (US$425) on the Ultimate Team packs. The group accused Sony of allowing an illegal element within a video game for minors.

The judge’s ruling indicates that the Ultimate Team packs represent a possible “added value” to those who buy it, enabling their reinvestment and increasing profits in a reinvestment game. In short, they’re a type of gambling. Sony will have to pay €338.26, although it hasn’t commented.

Although EA was responsible for developing the game, Sony was the defendant in the suit because it handled the payments. The outcome may lead to trouble for EA, Microsoft, and others.

Loot Box Debate

Loot boxes refer to in-game products that boost the gamer’s position. Depending on the game, they could be as simple as avatars or as complex as advanced weaponry or skills.

Players can purchase the loot boxes, although they rarely know in advance what they will get. This is why some believe they should be classified as gambling.

Opponents against the gambling classification argue that players always receive something for their purchase. Therefore, they argue, loot boxes aren’t gambling because there’s a risk of purchasing and getting nothing in return. They also argue that buying loot boxes isn’t always a requirement. In many cases, exchanging in-game points, accumulated for free, for one of the surprise packages is possible.

Several European countries have discussed loot boxes but have been unable to reach a conclusion on the issue. In the Netherlands, EA received a fine of €10 million (US$10.64 million) for loot boxes in various games. A higher court reversed that decision.

In Austria and Germany, gaming companies have also had to issue refunds to consumers for operating without a license.

But the debate hasn’t hurt the FIFA soccer video game series too much. In its first week, FIFA 23, the latest version, attracted 10.3 million players. The previous version, FIFA 22, had 9.1 million users in the first days after its release.