Although this is more of a hockey video game story than an actual hockey story, it is one that may potentially impact enough fans that I feel it may be very relevant to our readers. It's also one that I found pretty revolting to be honest and I hope it gets out to the people who need to hear it.
According to a breaking news report from Sportico's Michael McCann on Monday morning, EA Sports, the company the NHL's popular series of video games, is being sued by a number of disgruntled fans who feel the company has taken advantage of its own customers. Now to be clear this lawsuit is not specifically about the NHL games in particular, but it instead includes those games alongside those in the FIFA soccer series as well as those in the highly popular Madden Football series of games.
The lawsuit, Zajonc v. Electronic Arts, is being brought forth by 3 disgruntled fans Jason Zajonc, Danyael Williams and Pranko Lozano, who claim that EA has used deceptive practices, false advertising and other related claims under California law when it comes to the products they manufacture. Now that may not sound like a whole lot on the surface but the claims being made by these 3 men are actually pretty disturbing and, if proven to be true in court of law, I would expect that fans will be outraged at this development.
Now the claim in the filing is described as "utilizing one or more artificial intelligence technologies that adjust game difficulty dynamically" but let me explain in layman's terms what that means. These games, as a way to generate extra revenue, lock the best players in the game behind card packs that you must earn or buy in order to unlock those players. Well according to this suit the game is being dynamically adjusted to your level of skill, being made harder if you are too easily advancing through the game for example, in order to entice you to buy more packs of cards which will in turn in theory earn you better players so that you can then continue your progress through the game.
These card packs, and similar functionality in other video games know as "loot boxes", have already been the subject of major controversy around the world as they have been accused of promoting gambling addictions in children. In fact EA is currently facing a separate lawsuit in California regarding whether or not these card packs or loot boxes violate California's prohibition against slot machines.
EA has until early next year to respond to this filing so I would not expect a response anytime soon, but I definitely think that anyone playing these games should be fully aware of the predatory, and consumer unfriendly, practices that are being alleged to be contained within them.