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.