EA Refusing To Remove Loot Boxes In Belgium And May Go To Court
Belgium recently declared loot boxes a form of gambling and banned them. The Gaming Commission asked EA to remove loot boxes from its video games but the company is reportedly refusing to remove loot boxes from FIFA 18 and FIFA 19. Both games feature random card packs that are considered loot boxes in this case.
In April, when the BGC finished Belgium Officially Declares Loot Boxes Gambling And Illegal, EA was one of the companies mentioned as being in violation – specifically, its Ultimate Team card packs in FIFA 18 and upcoming release 19. Unlike other companies called out by Belgium, EA has not pulled these from 18, nor has it given any indication it will do so for FIFA 19.
As reported (and run through Google Translate) by the Dutch outlet Nieuwsblad, EA is currently under criminal investigation by the Brussels public prosecutor’s office (by request of the BGC) due to its refusal to remove these loot boxes from its games.
As the story notes, there’s no new law on the books; rather, loot boxes in games are being counted as part of already established gambling laws. Naturally, EA will argue that their packs for FIFA 18 and 19 are not gambling, which probably comes as much of a “surprise” to them as it did to Blizzard with Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch.
The difference is that Blizzard complied with the commission while still arguing its point — a decision that, in the short term, will cost the company money but at least ensure that it complies with local law. EA apparently isn’t willing to forgo that income, or at least seems to think it has a stronger case, and is willing to risk legal sanctions to prove its point.
Based on past statements (such as CEO Andrew Wilson’s assertion in May), it appears EA is ready and waiting for a legal battle. The BGC determined that loot boxes fell under an existing gambling law, but a court challenge could reverse that decision. In that case, BGC general director Peter Naessens told Nieuwsblad that the commission will pursue efforts to change the law so that loot boxes are included again.