'Star Wars: Battlefront II' And 'Overwatch' Under Investigation In Belgium: Are Loot Boxes Gambling?
Just as Star Wars: Battlefront II microtransactions received massive backlash from players, the game's loot boxes have been placed under investigation in Belgium.
The latest Star Wars title is not the only game in the spotlight, though, as the massively popular multiplayer shooter Overwatch is also involved.
'Star Wars: Battlefront II', 'Overwatch' Under Investigation
Belgium's Gaming Commission is investigating whether loot boxes in video games, particularly in Electronic Arts' Star Wars: Battlefront II and Blizzard's Overwatch, can be considered as a form of gambling.
The argument is that the loot boxes, which can be purchased with real money, do not reveal their contents until they are opened in-game. The system is "dependent on chance," which is why the two games and their loot boxes are now under investigation.
The commission is concerned because Star Wars: Battlefront II and Overwatch are sold to minors, with both games open to children 12 years and above in Europe.
If the loot boxes will be categorized as gambling in Belgium, Electronic Arts and Blizzard may be on the hook for fines worth hundreds of thousands of euros. This is because the two publishers will be found to be leading a gambling operation without a permit. There is also a chance that Star Wars: Battlefront II and Overwatch will be banned from being sold in the country.
Should Loot Boxes Be Considered As Gambling?
According to the general director of Belgium's Gaming Commission, loot boxes can pressure minors to spend more money to become better in playing a game. This holds true for Star Wars: Battlefront II, but not for Overwatch. The former's loot boxes may contain power-ups, but the latter's only contain cosmetic upgrades.
Based on the commission's statement that in-game performance is a factor in the investigation, Star Wars: Battlefront II will be in more danger than Overwatch. Overwatch loot boxes have received praise as a way to have microtransactions in a game without being abusive, as they are easily acquired without spending money and do not have an impact on match outcomes. However, it is unclear if the difference in contents will really affect the ruling.
In any case, if Belgium finds the loot boxes of Star Wars: Battlefront II and Overwatch as a form of gambling, this might pressure regulatory bodies in other countries to consider the same thing. While this might be a good thing to force publishers to scale back microtransactions in modern video games, it could also open up regulations against other forms of media.