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Belgium declares video game loot boxes are gambling

Posted on Friday, April 27 2018 @ 08:18:20 CEST by

loot box
This decade there's been a big push from game developers to earn more money from video games by offering downloadable content (DLC). Online casino games can be played both in a downloadable client and on a open browser, just like the website found at this link. This includes what used to be called expansion packs, but also much simpler things like in-game items that can be sold and traded. A new and more controversial phenomenon is the issue of the so-called loot boxes.

The system has existed for many years now, but was made popular (or notorious) via Overwatch (2016) and Star Wars Battlefront II (2017). Basically, when a gamer opens his real-world wallet for a virtual loot box, he or she will receive a random selection of virtual items. These can be very valuable, or they can be essentially worthless. It's all part of the effort to get a gamer to commit to a video game via a compulsion loop.

In the past, publishers earned only when a game got sold in a retail store but nowadays they aim to get repeat business from the same video game. Especially for free-to-play games this is important because it's the only form of monetization.

The flipside for gamers is that for the model to be successful for publishers, the game mechanics itself need to be changed. Basically, the game needs to push gamers to spend money, by turning the gameplay experience more into a "pay-to-win" system. This is unlike traditional Online Casino which is a more aware way of gambling.

Because loot boxes are a form of gambling, various countries around the world made them subject to regulation. Belgium is now taking a more severe point of view and has declared loot boxes are illegal. The country's Gaming Commission investigated Star Wars Battlefront 2, FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The latter three games were found to be subject to Belgium's gambling law. Battlefront 2 is not subject to the law because publisher EA rolled back the loot boxes.

Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens declared FIFA 18, Overwatch, and CS:GO illegal and said the operators could be subject to legal prosecution. Game publishers will need to remove the loot boxes, or they risk fines of up to 800,000 euros and prison sentences of up to five years. When minors are involved, which seems to be the case with these games, the punishments can be doubled. For adults, there are various gambling options online, here is a list of Best Mobile casino websites.

Geens calls for dialogue with the gaming industry and expressed concern about the impact of loot boxes on youngsters. He wants to ensure children don't come in contact with gambling when they're playing video games. A deadline by which the games must be changed hasn't been imposed.


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