Add Canada to the list of countries that are going to have to reckon with the legality of loot boxes in video games. Specifically, it’s not the government of Canada but a pair of Canadians, Mark Sutherland of British Columbia and Shawn Moore of Ontario, who are taking Electronic Arts to task for its loot box practices in a class-action civil claim against the publisher and developer.
First spotted by gaming and esports law blogger Marius Adomnica on The Patch Notes, Sutherland and Moore claim that EA’s loot boxes are gambling — a notion that’s been put forth by many and roundly denied by publishers — and that EA is thusly operating an illegal gambling operation. As a class-action suit, the suit is being filed on behalf of not only the two plaintiffs but anyone who has been affected by EA’s practices.
Virtually every game EA has made since 2008 is named in the suit, including Star Wars: The Old Republic and Apex Legends. The suit seeks restitution of damages and a public declaration by EA that it has violated the law, among other items.
According to Adomnica, Sutherland and Moore are “represented by a well-respected firm in BC, as well as one of BC’s most prominent class action solo practitioners,” so the suit has some merit. And, as he points out, while this is a civil case, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs — that loot boxes are gambling — could have wide-ranging effects, at least in Canada.
Not that that’s likely to happen, since the suit is essentially seeking damages equivalent to “everything it’s [EA] made off loot boxes since 2008.” Suffice it to say that the company would do everything in its power to prevent that from happening. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on, and could be highly relevant even if settled for a smaller amount.