The Belgian Gaming Commission has determined that loot boxes are now illegal in Belgium. The decision comes after legislators looked into loot boxes from games like FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Belgian investigators determined that the aforementioned games are subject to Belgian gambling laws. In an ironic twist of fate, Star Wars Battlefront 2, which kickstarted the loot box investigation, was determined okay by the commission. This is because at the time of the investigation Battlefront 2 had already removed loot boxes from the game.
As reported by our colleagues at Eurogamer, Minister of Justice Koen Geens issued a statement that declared that games like FIFA 18, Overwatch, and CS:GO are illegal and demanded that loot boxes must be removed from those games. If not, the publishers "risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros (~$975,000 USD)." If the commission finds the minors are involved, which given the fact that young children can play these games seems likely, the punishments can be doubled.
Belgium follows the Netherlands which also declared loot boxes in video games non-compliant with the country's gambling laws. Like the Netherlands, Belgium wants to engage with the video game industry to find solutions and ways to remove loot boxes from games.
Geens appears to be particularly worried about the effects of loot boxes on children. "It is often children who come into contact with such systems and we cannot allow that," said Geens in a statement. "Given the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable players, this was very worrying[.]"
We have reached out to the various game publishers regarding Belgium's loot box decision and have yet to receive a response or comment.
Similar investigations are taking place in the UK and US in states like Hawaii and Washington pursuing legislation that will ban video game companies from selling games with loot boxes to minors under the age of 21.
Meanwhile, the loot box controversy continues to influence the larger video game industry. We spoke to lawyers who represent large game companies about potential legal ramifications of these decisions regarding loot boxes from countries like Belgium and they told us that game companies are indeed worried.
It's unclear what exactly will happen next as Belgium did not issue a deadline to change the loot boxes in the investigated games like Netherlands has. For more on the loot box controversy, we have a breakdown of what exactly happened with loot boxes since the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy from last year.