For many gamers in Europe, those mysterious loot boxes full of randomized rewards may soon be a thing of the past. Belgium has followed the Netherlands in declaring randomized loot boxes an illegal form of gambling.
An investigation by the Belgian Gaming Commission determined that games like Overwatch, CS: GO, and FIFA 18 violated Belgian gambling law with their implementation of loot boxes. Star Wars Battlefront II escaped unscathed due to the fact that its loot boxes were removed prior to the investigation, following a period of public outcry at the game’s loot-box-oriented progression system.
The ruling could have far-reaching consequences for game publishers who sell their products in Europe. A statement from Minister of Justice Koen Greens said Overwatch, FIFA 18, and CS: GO were illegal and demanded that loot boxes be removed. If publishers refused, they could face “a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros.” Greens added that the involvement of underage players could result in the fines doubling. FIFA 18 is rated “PEGI 3” (the European equivalent of the ESRB’s “E for Everyone”), Overwatch is rated PEGI 12. Only CS: GO is PEGI 18, restricting it to adults unless parents allow their children to access it.
“It is often children who come into contact with such systems and we cannot allow that,” Geens said.
Geens has stated that he wants to meet with video game companies to discuss the removal of loot boxes. No deadline has been given for when game publishers must remove loot boxes from the Belgian versions of their games.