Belgium Declares Loot Boxes Illegal: What Does This Mean For Games Like Overwatch?


Governments began taking notice of the gaming industry debacle that is loot boxes after the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2, now one government has done something about them. Belgium declares loot boxes a form of gambling--making them illegal.

This is the first step towards getting rid of loot boxes.

Loot Boxes Is Gambling?

Belgium's legislators said on April 25 that if game publishers don't remove microtransactions from the games, they could be subjected to fines and more severe actions like jail time. Belgian minister of justice Koen Greens said that loot boxes were in violation of the gaming legislation. The fines that the game publishers could face reach up to 800,000 euros ($974,605).

Belgium's Gaming Commision investigated how loot boxes work in games. It was inspired to do so after the controversy started by Star Wars: Battlefront 2. It determined that microtransactions are a form of gambling by using the following criteria: if there was a game element involved if a bet could lead to a profit or loss, and if there was an element of chance rather than skill.

In its decision the gaming commission named FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive as games that could suffer fines as a result of the decision. The game that started the controversy Battlefront 2 had removed loot boxes instead letting players purchase cosmetics directly.

The Netherlands Thinks It's Gambling Too

On April 19, The Netherlands also revealed that they find some gaming loot boxes to be a form of gambling. The country told publishers that they must modify loot boxes to remove the addictive elements before the middle of June.

The Dutch gaming authority looked into the practice of 10 video games. It didn't name which games it was looking for at the report. It did say that four of the games were found to be violating the Betting and Gaming Act but didn't say which. Dutch broadcaster NOS named FIFA 18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and Rocket League.

It found that six of the games were not violating the law because users can't sell the prizes outside of the game. This means that there is no market value for the prizes. PUBG players are throwing down real money for items such as the Ivory School Uniform set which costs $475.

Games could either get a gambling license from the Netherlands or remove the addictive aspects of the loot box system. The report compared loot boxes to slot machines and roulettes in the way that they were designed.

Publishers have until June 20 this year to comply with the government's demands, if they do not comply with that, they may face fines or the possibility of being banned.

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