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Belgium finds loot box systems violate gambling laws

By Cal Jeffrey · 5 replies
Apr 25, 2018
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  1. Belgium has declared the loot box systems in FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive illegal under Belgium gambling laws. Belgium’s Prime Minister of Justice Koen Geens stated that the offending content must be removed from the games. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to 800,000 euros and imprisonment.

    The loot box controversy really heated up last fall with Star Wars Battlefront II’s aggressive microtransactional model. At that time it was reported that it would take over $2,000 or 4,500 hours of gameplay to unlock all of Battlefront’s content. The uproar caused EA to temporarily pull microtransactions from the game and later implement a modified MT system that does not allow loot boxes to be bought with cash. Ironically, this move led to the game not being singled out by Belgium authorities as the other three were.

    To determine whether the loot box systems were illegal the Belgium Gaming Commision looked at two factors — whether a purchase could lead to a profit or loss and whether or not the results of the "bet" were based on skill or merely luck. It was decided that FIFA 18, Overwatch and CS:GO all had elements of chance in their MT systems and as such fall under the gambling laws of the country.

    "The developer of Star Wars Battlefront II made some adjustments shortly after the launch, so that the system of loot boxes in that game no longer technically forms a game of chance," said Geens.

    The ruling comes less than a week after the Netherlands outlawed FIFA 18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League. According to Eurogamer, the Dutch gaming authority studied the 10 most popular streamed games on Twitch and discovered that the four previously mentioned are in violation of its Betting and Gaming Act. Specifically, the awards within the loot boxes could be traded outside of the game for cash giving them market value. Therefore, the MT systems constituted gambling similar to a slot machine.

    Even though the games themselves do not facilitate the exchange of loot box prizes, the fact that they can be traded outside is enough to charge the game makers with “offering this type of game of chance to Dutch players without a license.” Game makers have until June 20 to pull or alter their loot box systems.

    Although the ESRB in the US has determined that loot boxes are not gambling, states like Hawaii and Washington are looking at legislative measures to either ban or regulate loot box mechanics in games. As the debate continues, we are likely to see more regions following Belgium's example, especially for particularly predatory MT systems.

    Belgium has not set a deadline for the removal of the loot boxes but is rather looking to open a discussion with game makers regarding the issue.

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2018
  2. SalaSSin

    SalaSSin TS Booster Posts: 160   +83

    FYI, it's Koen Geens, and he's minister of justice.
    Reehahs and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  3. Ravey

    Ravey TS Addict Posts: 152   +66

    Now we just have to push to eliminate in game currencies and allow in game items to be bought at a cash value.

    In my opinion too many games have been ruined by forcing young players to purchase misleading "gems" "crystals", "coins" before being able to purchase the in game item they want. Yes the in-game items might be cheaper.. but you have to pay MORE for the in-game currency bundles. then you end up left with in-game currency you can't spend.

    Whats even worse is that these in game currencies have zero value, so a customer buying them has no way to sell unused gems back to the games developer..

    Interesting little loophole I have just found in the UK Consumer Rights Act (in favour of developers):
    Chapter 1
    (3) It does not apply— (a) to a contract for a trader to supply coins or notes to a consumer for use as currency;

    It looks as though the intention here is to not penalise cryptocurrencies. Digital currency with value... But in-game currencies have no value other than what the given games developer give it.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
    Reehahs likes this.
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,246   +3,661

    The tide is turning and game makers are going to have to go back to the old formula of making a great game and living off the sales rather than fleecing kids and forcing them into "borrowing" Mom & Dads credit cards to keep up their habits.
    cliffordcooley and Reehahs like this.
  5. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,698   +410

    Thanks for the catch. Fixed. I'm blaming auto-correct. :cool:
    Reehahs and SalaSSin like this.
  6. Reehahs

    Reehahs TS Guru Posts: 728   +471

    It is worse enough with single layer of currency abstraction but there are some developers who even double or triple the abstraction.
    Ravey likes this.

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