The topic of loot boxes returns like a boomerang, constantly questioning whether they should be treated as gambling. This time the issue was looked at by a court from Austria (via Reddit), after a teenage player decided to fight to recover the funds spent on FIFA Ultimate Team mode packs, from the FIFA series. However, he did not sue the company responsible for their creation, Electronic Arts, but Sony Interactive Entertainment, since the purchase was made at the PlayStation store.
Importantly, the court in the town of Hermagor in Carinthia agreed with the plaintiff. This is because it considered loot boxes to be part of a game of chance, and since the Japanese giant does not have a license for them, the contracts between the company and the player are invalid. In other words, Sony Interactive Entertainment should return the teenager's money.
Lootboxes in FIFA, the first such case in Austria and Germany
The verdict is not yet final, and although it does not amount to a huge sum (less than 339 euros), it may trigger another wave of lawsuits. This is according to Richard Eibl - managing director of the litigation financing company Padronus, which maintains that he has been contacted by "a four-digit number of users of FIFA games". He also stressed that this is the first case of its kind in Austria and Germany.
- Michael Linhard of the Salburg law firm (which cooperates with Padronus) is convinced that "the judgment sets the way forward in dealing with lootboxes and shows that video games are not a legal vacuum."
- Sony Interactive Entertainment will certainly take the opportunity to appeal, especially since the Japanese company has already unsuccessfully requested that the case be moved to a court in Vienna or London.
Lootboxes in other countries
It's hard to believe that a non-final decision by a court from a small city will have much impact on a dispute that has dragged on for years. Previously, the topic of lootboxes was faced by Netherlands, among others, ultimately deciding that, as part of a larger game, they could not be counted as a game of chance. They are also still present in Belgium, which admittedly introduced regulations concerning them, but... there is no indication that they have actually been complied with.