In April of this year, the Belgium Gaming Commission officially labelled Loot Boxes as a form of gambling. This classification meant that any games containing a Loot Box or similar mechanic would need to adhere to gambling laws.
Many publishers came under investigation with Valve, Blizzard and 2K all altering their games in Belgium to comply with the new ruling and remove the gambling feature. EA is still yet to do so and is now reportedly the subject of criminal investigation by the Brussels public persecutor’s office due to the practices found within FIFA. If they choose to prosecute then the case will go to court. This information comes translated from Belgium outlet, Metro.
Loot Boxes have become the subject of much outrage around the world including here in Victoria, Australia. Back in November of last year, Loot Boxes were vilified by Jarrod Wolfe, the Strategic Analyst for the Compliance Division of The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulator.
“What occurs with ‘loot boxes’ does constitute gambling by the definition of the Victorian Legislation.”
“The normalisation of gambling vernacular and mechanics targeted at vulnerable persons (minors), is not just morally reprehensible, but is also legally questionable.”
It’s possible we are amidst a period of change in the gaming world where more and more regulatory groups will illegalise current practices. Clearly there are some publishers willing to alter their behaviour to comply, so why isn’t EA? Back in April an EA spokesperson told Eurogamer that they didn’t see Loot Boxes as gambling.
“We strongly believe that our games are developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world, and take these responsibilities very seriously… We do not agree that our games can be considered as any form of gambling.”
It’s possible that EA plan to take the matter to court and argue against the decision made by the Belgium Gaming Commission. Although with all the flack they have already received, particularly the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II, one might be inclined to believe that EA will simply comply to save what little reputation they have left.