The Belgian Gaming Commission has followed in the footsteps of the Dutch authorities and declared that some loot boxes are in violation of gambling laws. The Gaming Commission analyses the loot boxes found in Star Wars Battlefront 2, FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, arriving at the conclusion that players are being misled and these loot crates present a danger to mental health.
Three parameters are used to define whether an activity is classed as gambling in Belgium. There must be a game element; a bet that leads to profit or loss, and there must be a factor of chance. Of the games they examined, three out of four were found to be in conflict with Belgian gambling legislation. The only one that wasn’t, ironically enough, was the much-maligned Star Wars Battlefront 2.
"Paying lootboxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of dexterity, and players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling is applied," said Peter Naessens, the director of the Gaming Commission.
Justice Minister Koen Geens takes a similar tack, saying "Mixing games and gambling [gambling], especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health. We have already taken numerous measures to protect minors and adults against the influence of, for example, gambling advertising, and we must therefore ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they seek pleasure in a video game.”
In what has to be seen as a victory for consumers, Geens says the investigation began when the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront 2 blew up. It’s helped shine a spotlight on a prominent gaming issue, and the impression is that further territories, in the EU at least, are going to follow suit in a swift manner.
The Belgian Gambling Commission has declared that loot boxes must be removed from the offending titles or the operators (publishers) may face a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine of up to €800,000. Should a game be targeted at minors, these punishments can be doubled.
A representative from EA has already issued a statement to GamesIndustry, unsurprisingly claiming that FIFA 18’s player packs are totally ethical, fun, and fair. "We strongly believe that our games are developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world, and take these responsibilities very seriously," says EA. "We care deeply that our players are having a fun and fair experience in all of our games, and take great care to ensure each game is marketed responsibly, including in compliance with regional ratings standards."
With loot crates now stepping into confirmed illegal territory, it becomes interesting to see which companies get pulled up on it. Evidently, they’re perfectly okay with using shady tactics that border on illegal in an effort to extract as much money from their customer base as possible, at least until they’re caught red-handed. At this time, it’s certainly worth paying attention to the publishers that haven’t preyed on their customer base in this manner.