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Belgium Finds Loot Boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18 Illegal and Punishable with Jail Time

Cease and desist.

News by Matt Kim, .

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.

A Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot crate, since removed 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.

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Comments 10

  • Avatar for HantonVerbal #1 HantonVerbal 3 months ago
    My libertarian streak (which is very small) says that this is the wrong thing to do. Let the free market handle it. But you know what? I think I kinda support this. Lootboxes are basically scams, they are predatory. I see no problem with making scams illegal, in fact it seems like the natural thing to do.
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  • Avatar for riot-50 #2 riot-50 3 months ago
    I mean, they're selling essentially virtual scratch off tickets to children.

    This was not a matter of if but rather when.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #3 VotesForCows 3 months ago
    Not sure about this. I mean, I've always felt that this is gambling, and avoided games that use it. But it's a shock to see Overwatch there, which has loot boxes that people seem relatively ok with.
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  • Avatar for NotCarolKaye #4 NotCarolKaye 3 months ago
    Well by God, Belgium has made up their mind and they're not gonna waffle!Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2018 by NotCarolKaye
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #5 UnskippableCutscene 3 months ago
    Blizzard games already have regional differences in their clients, as anyone who had used WoW or Hearthstone in EU or China can attest.

    I can't imagine it's the boxes themselves that are illegal as it is the purchasing of them. So they'll just remove the buy button for clients in these countries. Players would still get boxes every so many games, and will have the same experience more or less as the majority of non-whales around the world.

    This *could* have a positive effect for frugal fans of Valve's cosmetics. They've been getting increasingly reliant on slapping a classification on cosmetics that makes them unable to resale on the Steam Marketplace, offering limited time lootboxes and the like. If players in certain countries can't buy lootboxes, but can legally buy the contents of boxes from other players in other countries in an online sale, that will pressure Valve to stop the trend of No Resale on skins.Edited 3 times. Last edited April 2018 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #6 MetManMas 3 months ago
    @VotesForCows Lootboxes is still lootboxes and even if the content's more cosmetic it's still a way to get players to throw piles of money at a RNG to try their luck at getting more random junk.

    Anyway, I really hope they'll go after Candy Crush Saga and its kin next 'cuz they're far more insidious with their microtransactions.
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  • Avatar for Orcitect #7 Orcitect 3 months ago
    Fantastic news!

    Let the free market handle it? Lol
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  • Avatar for docexe #8 docexe 3 months ago
    I’m still wary about governments stepping in on this issue, but given all the shenanigans that happened last year, it seemed inevitable. Battlefront II was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, but the gaming industry on the whole brought it on themselves.

    Also, serious question from a neophyte on the matter: How exactly Belgium would enforce a “jail time” sentence if the publishers don’t comply?
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #9 Fourfoldroot 3 months ago
    @HantonVerbal

    I don't really agree that they are scams, not if they move to tell you the odds of each outcome anyway, but they certainly are gambling and should be treated and labelled as such. From a selfish perspective I'd like to see them removed from all games for gameplay reasons, but I don't know how I feel about governments promoting the whole "think of the children" issue on video games. They have legally enforceable age ratings after all. Next step could be banning some of my favourite Japanese games for being cartoony lewd because, hey, games are for kids ad nobody cares about age ratings, right?Edited April 2018 by Fourfoldroot
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  • Avatar for dr134 #10 dr134 3 months ago
    The idea of governmental involvement in video games (for any reason) just makes me think: Be careful what you wish for...you just may get it.

    Today it is loot boxes, but what is next? "We have to protect the children!!!!"

    I think the easiest way to squash the loot box craze would be to make all games that offer paid for loot boxes be rated AO (Adults Only). Stores would not carry them, and that alone would likely cause the publishers to cut loot boxes out of their games.
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