The Dutch and Belgian Gaming Authority Is Investigating Whether Loot Boxes Constitute Gambling.
The Dutch Gaming Authority are conducting an investigation into loot boxes to see whether they count as online gambling, which is currently illegal in The Netherlands.
The Gaming Authority is still in its research phase, and hence has not decided whether loot boxes constitute gambling. However, a spokesperson told Dutch news site NU that if they did determine that loot boxes constituted gambling, companies that included them would be “in violation [of Dutch law], which in the worst case can result in enforcement and a penalty for the provider.”
Last month, research firm SuperData were commissioned by the Gaming Authority to investigate the link between online games and gambling, and found that 55% of UK 25-34 year-olds switch from gambling-style games or vitual item wagering (such as skin betting in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) to real-money gambling. 80% of those who switch in The Netherlands do so because playing with real money “is more exciting.” You can read the full report here.
The Gaming Authority did not comment on any particular games. European rating organisation PEGI said they would wait to see what the Gaming Authority concluded, but are “looking at ways to better inform consumers about extra buying options in games.”
The Belgian Gaming Commission is investigating whether loot box systems used in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch qualify as gambling.
Originally reported by VTM (via Gamasutra), the general director of the the Belgian Gaming Commission, Peter Naessens, told the local news outlet the commission is investigating whether the loot box mechanisms used in Battlefront 2 and Overwatch should be branded as gambling.
EA say that the loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II “are not gambling.” In a statement given to GameSpot, the company defend their microtransactions, saying they’re part of a “fun and fair game experience.”
The statement was given in response to the news that the Belgian Gaming Commission is investigating whether loot crates available for purchase in Battlefront II and Overwatch count as gambling. Blizzard are yet to comment on the issue, but EA say their crates don’t count, despite the potential gameplay advantages they can offer.
The full statement reads: “Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game.”
But if a government regulator classified a game like Battlefront II as gambling, that might push other gambling regulators and/or the ESRB to take a fresh look at the issue, potentially shifting the landscape of game development. As the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts might also have to pay the price of retooling the game and/or pay a fine to the Belgian & Dutch authorities.
Blizzard has already faced a similar situation with Overwatch in China, where a new law went into effect in May requiring games with loot box systems to disclose A) what potential rewards a player can receive from a given box and B) what the odds are of them getting each of those rewards.
In response, Blizzard publicly disclosed that data for the Chinese version of Overwatch. Moreover, it reworked the game to adhere to another Chinese law banning the direct sale of loot boxes in games by instead “gifting” loot boxes to Chinese Overwatch players who spent real money to purchase specific amounts of in-game currency.