Following an investigation into loot boxes in videogames, the Belgian Gaming Commission has found that Overwatch, FIFA 18 and Counter-Strike: GO are in breach of the country’s gambling legislation.
That conclusion heightens the impression that European countries are working up to a clampdown on loot boxes in games – as we reported, Dutch authorities recently found that four games – Dota 2, FIFA 18, PUBG and Rocket League – are in breach of their gambling laws. Belgian authorities investigated the three games they cited plus Star Wars: Battlefront II, which they concluded wasn’t in breach of gaming legislation, presumably because its microtransactions system currently remains disabled following a pre-launch controversy.
In a statement, Koen Geens, Belgium’s Minister of Justice, said: “An interview with the sector is imminent. It is often children who come into contact with such systems and we cannot allow that.” The statement also declares: “The games with paid loot boxes, as currently offered in our country, are therefore in violation of the gaming legislation and can be dealt with under criminal law. The loot boxes must therefore also be removed. If that does not happen, the operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros. When minors are involved, those punishments can be doubled. Minister of Justice Koen Geens therefore wishes to enter into a dialogue soon, both with the developers, operators and the Gaming Commission. Together we can see who should take responsibility where.”
The crux of the report’s antipathy towards the three games published by Activision Blizzard, EA Sports and Valve is that they sell loot boxes containing random objects, which amounts to a game of chance and lands them in breach of stringent national rules designed to keep minors away from gambling. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop – EU-wide anti-loot box legislation is now looking increasingly likely, unless developers and publishers subject their offerings to a radical rethink.