Dutch And Belgian Counter-Strike Players Can No Longer Open Loot Boxes
Valve released an update for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive this week that blocks players in Belgium and the Netherlands from opening containers, the team-based shooter’s version of loot boxes that contain cosmetic items like stickers and weapon skins. The update also re-enables the ability for players in the Netherlands to trade and buy items via Steam.
In June, Valve attempted to comply with Dutch law — which determined that a handful of video games with loot boxes were in violation of the country’s gambling rules — by disabling trading and Steam Marketplace transfers in two of its games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2.
Belgium was one of the first countries to investigate loot boxes, expressing its concerns in November 2017. Its investigation spanned months, particularly dissecting the use of loot boxes within Star Wars Battlefront 2, FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. While Star Wars managed to dodge the bullet after EA removed its loot boxes thanks to fan backlash, the three remaining titles were found to be in breach of gambling laws and eligible for prosecution if changes aren’t made.
At the time, Valve called the restriction on Dutch players its “only practical alternative” in light of the ruling, and apologized to players in the country for the inconvenience. The company said it was looking into other methods to comply with demands from the Netherlands Gambling Authority (aka the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit).
The Kansspelautoriteit announced earlier this year that it had evaluated 10 loot boxes featured in unnamed games and found four of them to contravene the country’s Betting and Gaming Act. The organization argued that loot box contents are determined by chance and that the items contained within can have a market value.
Moreover, the analyses that are currently available indicate that all of the loot boxes that were studied could be addictive
The authority said it requested that game makers who offer loot boxes in their games modify them “before mid-June,” and warned that it “may instigate enforcement action against providers of games of chance with loot boxes that do not adhere to this norm” by June 20, 2018.
Loot boxes are a lucrative business, considering it costs almost nothing to develop and publish new skins compared to how much money publishers can make from selling digital items. It seemed unlikely that publishers would be okay with outright removing loot boxes from their games, so it will be interesting to see if these half-measures from CS:GO are enough to avoid punishment in the only two countries that have produced any real anti–loot box legislation, or if those countries will want to show a little more muscle in their campaign to, in their paraphrased words, save children and minors from forming gambling habits.