EA Under Criminal Investigation in Belgium After Refusing to Remove FIFA 18 Loot Boxes

Written by Neil Soutter on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 12:59 PM
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Electronic Arts has been flaunting local laws for the best part of six months but it has at last ceded to the demands of the Belgian authorities.

As of January 31st, 2019, FIFA 19 players in Belgium will no longer be able to purchase the FIFA Points used for microtransactions in the FIFA Ultimate Team mode.

Players will still be able to spend their existing FIFA Points, operate in the in-game transfer market, and buy players using coins, they just won't be able to spend actual money on the virtual currency.

It comes after the Belgian Gaming Commission said it could pursue legal prosecution if certain games with loot crates didn't conform to local laws. Blizzard removed loot crates from Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm with immediate effect, while 2K Games cleaned up the NBA 2K series. EA wasn't budging though, and now it appears the strong arm of the law has forced EA to change its ways.

"We seek to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to our players in all our games. In addition to providing players options in how they play, we include pack probabilities in our games for the transparency players want to make informed content choices," said EA of the decision. "While we are taking this action, we do not agree with Belgian authorities’ interpretation of the law, and we will continue to seek more clarity on the matter as we go forward."

Original Story: 11-Sep-2018 - EA Under Criminal Investigation in Belgium After Refusing to Remove FIFA 18 Loot Boxes

EA has refused to remove loot boxes from FIFA 18 in Belgium despite the Belgium Gaming Commission ruling that loot boxes and randomised packs are a violation of its national anti-gambling laws.

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad reports the Gaming Commission has said "anyone who does not conform to the risk of legal prosecution. It is now up to the Brussels public prosecutor's office."

Blizzard has already removed loot crates from both Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm in Belgium, while Valve and 2K Games swiftly followed suit. However, EA appears to be remaining defiant of local laws, refusing to remove Ultimate Team card packs in both FIFA 18 and the upcoming FIFA 19.

As a result, EA is now under criminal investigation by the Brussels public prosecutor's office, as per a request from the Belgium Gaming Commission.

Despite this, EA Ceo Andrew Wilson is still insisting that FIFA Ultimate Team loot boxes aren’t gambling, seemingly oblivious to how laws are implemented differently from country to country. His argument is that players who purchase card packs know they will receive a specified number of items in return, just like in Panini sticker packs.

Peter Naessens from the BGC refutes this claim, saying “Panini prints just as many stickers from every footballer. It is not a roulette between common and rare pictures. With FIFA 18 , that is indeed the case."

On this front, I believe is totally in the wrong. Local laws have to be respected and the refusal to remove loot crates from FIFA 18 Ultimate Team makes it appear as if EA thinks itself above the law. No doubt the Belgian courts will have the final say unless EA relents.

2K Games hasn’t been totally absolved in this situation either, asking its fans last week to get in touch with the Belgium Gaming Commission and lobby for the re-legalisation of loot boxes in the territory.

"The Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC) has stated that games which include some 'loot box' style mechanics violate gambling laws in Belgium," 2K wrote. "While we disagree with this position, we are working to comply with the BGC's current interpretation of these laws. If you agree, we recommend that you contact your local government representative. We will keep the community posted on any developments. We apologise for any inconvenience."

If you’re living in Belgium and you’re particularly angry loot boxes are no longer available in some games, then feel free to make your voices heard. All two of you.

Source: Nieuwsblad

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14:18 Jan-31-2019

With the way EA has been wasting the goodwill of gamers, they might end up halting sales of everything. Period.


You can't sell if gamers don't want to buy your stuff anymore EA.

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08:36 Jan-31-2019

next up, ban the game completely

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15:18 Jan-30-2019

Okay so if they can't buy the packs anymore, they need to do something about gold coins/fifa points balancing.. or else you'll never be able to get expensive packs.

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15:23 Jan-30-2019

I kinda have a notion that they don't give a crap about that. They have particularly stated in their full comment that everything can be earned in game without spending cash, and the way they said it leads me to believe that they'll just switch off the lootboxes and be done with it.

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15:16 Jan-30-2019

I like how everyone is calling Belgian Law as an "interpretation" of the law. Such a snidely comment to make.
EAs statement is a literal checkbox of excuses as per usual. I particularly like the last part of their statement, which is not in full here, where they say that excluding MTX will not impact their estimated earnings. Same comment they made with BF II. Makes you wonder, if these MTX are a necessity as some claim, how can they be removed with no impact on earnings?

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13:27 Jan-30-2019

Well, it was either MTX or dismember a whole game into 10+ separate expensive DLCs....
Its a good first step & probably to continue with other countries & gaming companies, but they'll find a way around it for sure
10 years ago, the hot topic was about the over-use of DLCs, now that's acceptable...

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15:08 Sep-12-2018

If you can trust in EA to stand for something, It is for our rights to be exploited out of our bottom dollar.
They don't want to stand up for game quality or gamer's rights, but for loot boxes they sure as heck would move heaven and earth and all in between.

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14:55 Sep-12-2018

I agree with the BGC and i hope laws like that one will spread all over the world. As mentioned by others, want to make profit? dev a good game, if you are unable to deliver a decent game than die in hell of bankruptcy.

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10:52 Sep-12-2018

ok, worst case: what happens if they actually win the right to keep the lootboxes?
I guess other companies will continue to use the as well + maybe a majority of others that did not use them 'till now?
...
Guess we have to boycott & stop buying new games at all...

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12:37 Sep-12-2018

Well I have been doing the same since 2007, the question is can others do it?

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13:06 Sep-12-2018

You aren't their target audience though. Especially these game series like Fifa and CoD usually target fans of them who'll buy every installment anyway, and kids who have never played one of them but know they're popular so mommy gotta fork over some green.

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13:09 Sep-12-2018

Still there's one audience less for them. I was a big fan of many of the IPs they own. But even if they launch any game of those IP I won't budge and pirate those games, let alone pay them.

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15:24 Jan-30-2019

People actually buy EA games? Don't do that lol

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21:41 Sep-11-2018

NO MORE KILLING GAME STUDIOS!!!!! EA!!!

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19:53 Sep-11-2018

I still think this law is stupid if gambling is completely illegal in Belgium it's Sth but if not this law is **** having provided zero solutions for publishers if u want +18 mark or taxes fine but a straight ban really?

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20:19 Sep-11-2018

Gambling in Belgium is regulated by the Belgian Gaming Commission, so not completely illegal just regulated. The solution for the publishers is to remove loot boxes. Loot boxes are gambling and they are against the law. Publishers don't need gambling in their games to make profits, they just need to make good games. Period. End. Of. Story.

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00:21 Sep-12-2018

regulated to protect minors. And parents' wallets.

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01:07 Sep-12-2018

It's a bit more complicated than that. Imagine EA paying the gambling commission fee's for every city/state/country they have to pay fees in, insuring no kids can use them, offering assistance programs to deal with addiction, and admitting that loot boxes are gambling. Who is really gonna wanna gamble for Overwatch skins when they have to admit that's exactly what they're doing, gambling?

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01:20 Sep-12-2018

In addition to that the gambling laws very greatly across each city/state/country. Plenty of places aren't likely to allow gambling there simply because they won't be the ones in control of it. If loot boxes get classified as gambling in the United States it would be an effective ban.

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17:32 Jan-30-2019

"Gambling regulation" just means "the government wants a piece of that action". That's all it is, when you dig deep. Real regulation wouldn't allow people with addiction to lose their homes and sink their families in debt they can't ever repay.

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08:38 Jan-31-2019

But hey, they look cool with their new skins doing it, right?

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19:34 Sep-11-2018

F**ccckkkk yyooouuuu EA... Just f*cking die!

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19:38 Sep-11-2018

EA knows some kind of witchcraft or something... We have been saying this to EA for past 20 years and take a look, EA is alive and well with bustling amount of IPs under its belt.

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22:47 Sep-11-2018

Because too many kids with their parents wallets still buy all the bull mtx.

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17:22 Sep-11-2018

Bring the beast down hard!

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16:39 Sep-11-2018

EA is Mr. Krabs of the gaming industry.

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10:36 Sep-12-2018

AT least I fin Mr. Krabs funny. EA is not even funny at this point...

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15:20 Sep-11-2018

such an advanced country, might have to move there someday :)

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22:48 Sep-11-2018

As much as I love Belgium, I would suggest against it. Cost of living is ridiculous, Amazon doesn't deliver there, and the Anime on Netflix is all in French.
The internet is super fast though.

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00:23 Sep-12-2018

Lolwat? Anime on netflix isn't all in French? There's plenty in japanese with dutch or english subtitles.
And if you watch it dubbed you aren't worthy.

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15:16 Sep-11-2018

So this is the hill EA is ready to fight on? Fits them really well actually.
They do have a few technicalities to argue with but I think none of it will be able stand up to the recent law.
I just hope that once they lose the case other countries revisit their stances over lootboxes and gambling in games making them illegal across most of the world.

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15:18 Sep-11-2018

That'd put a massive smile on my face. Not only would EA be the reason why regulatory laws were implemented, but they'd be a reason why they are widely illegal.

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15:04 Sep-11-2018

i still dont get this hate for EA

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15:31 Sep-11-2018

I still don't understand why you're so adamant at defending these practices. You said multiple times that you don't agree with them but you're always arguing in their favor so I'm honestly starting to doubt what you say.
EA is quite literally here showing that they think they're above the law while every other company has backed down, and this is just a little tiny bit of why they're so hated.

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16:38 Sep-11-2018

I'm mostly butt-hurt, that they stopped producing good single player experiences - it's one thing that they mostly focus on multiplayer-ones, but to even mess-up the so few releases... ugh!
For the Microtransactions... meh, if it wasn't them, it was gonna be some other big company for sure... I think in general AAA publishers are to blame here, not just focus all the hate on one

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16:47 Sep-11-2018

yep, squenix being one of them (pissed at what they did to DXMD >:( )

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18:47 Sep-11-2018

maby bec i am getting bored of kisening people hate 3 thing Denuvo, Microtransactions and EA(like its only company that makes sht around) and i dont trying to understand why people hate them and i understand part of it like hurting legit player with denuvo bec of perfomanse lose or that game is pay to win with Microtransactions that i get it but again why do y hate a game or publisher i mean simply dont buy it, now will people hate me more, but if a game u want to play come out then play it, if y dont like it then dont but why everyone is hating bec they are not getting what they wanted

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18:54 Sep-11-2018

I don't think it's possible for me to hate any more than I do now. j/k

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19:06 Sep-11-2018

  1. EA cheats gamers (eg. star wars battlefront 2)

  2. EA buys indie game developers for IP and closes them (Maxis, Westwood and many more)

  3. EA extensively releases the games with fragmented content like cheeseblock and expects customer to buy additional DLC to enjoy it.

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19:10 Sep-11-2018

If you don't try to understand than why are you defending them?
The very reason why we have companies like EA and ****ty practices such as MT's and lootboxes is because people get bored of standing their ground when someone steps over it.
I hate them because they exploit people who do buy them. Because they're warping games into casinos and money grabbing crap. Because games aren't games anymore

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19:22 Sep-11-2018

  1. EA does extensive reshuffling and consolidation of its own studios, where good employees from better studio get relocated to worse performing studio like mixing water and milk.

  2. EA does extremely worse employee treatment like long working hours and underpaid workers.

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19:27 Sep-11-2018

  1. All the money earned through any means just disappear (into the investors pocket ofc)

  2. With all honesty, EA always has been punching bag of gaming industry, but well deserved, because these practices aren't exclusive for EA, but EA has been in forefront of all.

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19:30 Sep-11-2018

Now,now TheEmperor96, calm down. If our boi needs the reason, give him the reason. Please don't shout at him so much for not knowing things, give him explanation once. If he understands then all is good, otherwise just forget him. The explanation will be here for others to read and enlighten themselves.

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17:50 Sep-11-2018

Because loot boxes are gambling and they prey on people with addictive personalities. There's a reason that gambling is regulated by the government in most countries. In this the hate isn't confined to EA, every one with loot boxes in there games is fair game.

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17:53 Sep-11-2018

The only difference between EA and Activision Blizzard and the rest of them is that EA is stupid enough to try and fight back while the rest are going the passive aggressive route of removing the loot boxes but acting like they're not doing it because it's against the law but because the bad guys, The Belgium Gaming Commission, are making them do it.

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22:50 Sep-11-2018

That one statement is like signing a death warrant around here, and for good reason.

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05:05 Sep-12-2018

And the other one is supporting denuvo/drm

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14:47 Sep-11-2018

Thank you Belgium, please never change your ways.

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14:41 Sep-11-2018

There was a case like this in the netherlands too.
I'm only afraid that if the courts says its indeed illegal, then ea decides not to release fifa games at all anymore in the countries where the courts has spoken...
And cause Fifa is the only footie i play, i hope it will not come to this.
Trust me, ive tried PES, but its simply not my thing

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14:50 Sep-11-2018

They might do that hoping to get the people complain to the government.
Personally I think they should just slap an 18+ on all games with micro transactions and apply whatever other laws the countries have for gambling.
If you wanna make bank like a casino you'll get treated as one.

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15:31 Sep-11-2018

I agree with you Mymiron, EA should just put an +18 on all their games, i mean they are promoting gambling.Even all those free to play games with the same mechanuch should as well be for mature people.

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16:25 Sep-11-2018

As if 18+ Sticker has ANY effect. I know 10y old that have full GTA V copies.

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18:12 Sep-11-2018

The game companies themselves won't do it. ESRB and PEGI won't do it, they're basically controlled by publishers. If the country does it then no need for stickers because then it would literally be against the law until they come in line with current gambling laws.

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14:51 Sep-11-2018

Damn EA has launched 26 FIFA games since 1993 in pc alone, alongside multiple other platforms like android, ps 1-4, nintendo, xbox, etc but still has so much money lust, honestly you players should boycott them for just including microtransactions.

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14:51 Sep-11-2018

Remember very few games have such loyal fanbase that the game is guaranteed to sell if released.

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15:03 Sep-11-2018

Honestly i think its because this very game is about soccer, and its one of the 2 games that gets released yearly containing soccer.. These 2 facts, along that players always wants the latest transfers included (doesnt happen in last years release when a new one is out) makes it that the fans are so loyal...

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15:14 Sep-11-2018

But that doesn't justify microtransactions or lootboxes, specially if you need to pay to own the game. You people are just getting milked and not objecting to it.

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17:57 Sep-11-2018

I completely agree, the people that are buying into this crap are buying into something that's completely against they're own interest. These games make enough money that they don't need MTXs, and always have. I can only think that it's something related to Stockholm Syndrome that fuels these people.

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15:24 Sep-11-2018

That'd just cement their greed and complete disrespect of their customers. Let them. If they haven't learned anything from the 3 PR nightmares they brought on themselves in the last year or 2, they deserve another one.
At the very end, there are roster update mods because that's essentially what EA does with FIFA, so download that and you're golden.

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14:30 Sep-11-2018

Belgium-1, EA-0 FTW!!!!

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14:31 Sep-11-2018

EA is the only game company in my blacklist

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14:47 Sep-11-2018

Only EA?
LUL
I have 5 + Nestlé.

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14:52 Sep-11-2018

Nestle makes games?

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14:54 Sep-11-2018

Nope, I have 5 gaming companies on it + Nestlé.

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14:57 Sep-11-2018

I have very lax rules, but still EA is the only game company able to make into list.

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17:21 Sep-11-2018

ONLY 5


I have over 9000! + Nestle and Monsanto (now part of Bayer if im not mistaken)

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17:28 Sep-11-2018

Does those 9000+ companies are relayed to your life or lifestyle or you just making a claim that they're banned just for saying?

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14:26 Sep-11-2018

Blahahahaha, it was just a matter of time!
I hope EA gets hit with a hard fine. This company I have zero respect for. Probably even less then zero...

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18:01 Sep-11-2018

If they lose this then it's going to make companies a lot more hesitant in putting loot boxes in their games. It will be easier, and more likely, that other countries jump on the bandwagon and start doing the same as well. If they win then it's loot boxes in games for all of eternity. Sims get's a loot box, Anthem gets a loot box, Need for Speed gets a loot box, every body gets a loot box!

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