2K Sports and Blizzard Entertainment have both made changes to popular titles like NBA 2K and Overwatch to comply with recent decisions made in Belgium and the Netherlands that ruled against loot boxes, as they were found to be a form of gambling.
In separate statements, Blizzard and 2K announced that certain features in Overwatch/Heroes of the Storm and NBA 2K respectively have been changed to comply with European gambling laws.
On Blizzard's end, the company announced that loot boxes will be removed in Belgium as a result of an investigation into loot boxes as gambling. "As a result, we have no choice but to implement measures that will prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money and gems," writes Blizzard in a community forum post. Belgian players will still have full access to the game's content but will have earn them by playing the game.
"While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law."
2K Sports on their end issued two separate statements, one for the Netherlands and the other for Belgium. Different features in 2K Sports will be removed for each country, and 2K addresses them both individually.
In the Netherlands, 2K is removing the Auction House from NBA 2K18 which lets players trade and sell basketball stars. "The Kansspelautoriteit [Dutch Gaming Authority] have stated that games which include 'loot box' style mechanics violate gambling laws in the Netherlands if the in-game items they contain are transferable," writes 2K in one statement.
For Belgium, 2K is removing changes to MyTeam mode and turning off the ability to purchase packs using real-world currency. In both statements 2K says they "disagree with this position" but are complying anyways with the decisions made by the governing bodies in the Netherlands and Belgium.
The loot box controversy was kicked off by EA with the release of Star Wars: Battlefront 2, which featured a loot box mechanic many players found to be unfair. EA quickly removed the loot box feature, but the damage was done. With legislatures around the world investigating loot boxes, many games in-development changed course on how they implement monetization.
Recently, a new trend has opened thanks to Battle Passes, a new system of rewards where players can purchase a battle pass and reach certain milestones to earn specific rewards. Legal experts say that battle passes should hold up better under gambling investigations.
It remains to be seen how many other titles will be affected in Belgium and the Netherlands thanks to their anti-gambling laws.