Loot boxes have had a pretty rough time in the past couple of months and the troubles are not likely to go away anytime soon. Just recently, the Netherlands declared that loot boxes constituted gambling and were therefore illegal and now Belgium has made a similar move.
Following an investigation that the Belgian Gaming Commission had been conducting on some popular video game titles including FIFA 18, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) and Star Wars Battlefront 2, the Belgian minister of justice, Koen Geens, on April 25 announced the results. Of the four video games, only Stars Wars Battlefront 2 was not in violation of the Belgian gambling legislation but this is only because EA, the company that develops Star Wars, removed loot boxes from the game after some debacles when it was launched.
OverWatch, CS:GO and FIFA 28, on the other hand, still had loot boxes which under Belgian gambling law are considered to be games of chance. As such, so long as they contained the loot boxes the games were illegal and they are forced to remove the loot boxes or “risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros.” The penalties could be doubled in cases where minors are involved.
“Mixing games and gambling, especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health,” Geens said. “We must ensure that children and adults are not presented with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game.”
Loot boxes are by no means a new concept in mobile gaming applications but the recent upsurge in their inclusion in console-based video games have become a huge concern for parents as well as many other responsible parties. Furthermore, the gaming community has been very welcoming to initiatives that seek to have the insidious inventions removed from their games.
While regions like the US and the UK have Okayed the use of loot boxes, the declaration that they are illegal in the Netherlands and Belgium has presented what can be referred to as a dramatic turn for the video game loot box issue. If anything is to go by, game developers in the whole of Europe may be forced to make significant changes to the way the games they develop work, especially because more countries in the continent could launch similar initiatives.
Unlike the case in the Netherlands, Belgium has not imposed a deadline for the implementation of the necessary changes. Geens hopes to approach this is in a different way and this will involve dialogue between the country’s gaming commission and the affected video game developers.