Belgium follows Dutch lead with loot box ban

Belgium follows Dutch lead with loot box ban

Friday, April 27, 2018 Posted by Michael Lawson
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Investigation finds “at least three video games in violation”

The issue of loot boxes within video games has been raised once again, with news that the Belgian Gaming Commission has banned the controversial features.

The commission has made the judgement after an investigation into four leading titles, Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, FIFA 18 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Loot boxes are in-game purchases that many regard as a form of betting, where players pay upfront without knowing the contents of the box.

Stating that “at least three video games in violation”, as well as “developers are increasingly using systems to get players to real money once they have purchased a game”, findings were drawn that loot boxes do indeed construct a game of chance.

Stressing the impact such features could have, particularly to children, the commission’s statement said: “The fact that it is often minor players is worrying. The hidden character of gambling is extra problematic in the case of children.

“If this is not properly arranged, games of chance in video games will cause great damage to people, family and society.”

Minister of Justice Koen Geens, who instigated the investigation as is seeking talking with developers and operators, commented: "Mixing games and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health.

“We have already taken numerous measures to protect both minors and adults against the influence of, among other things, gambling advertising.

“That is why we must also ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game."

Discussing the AAA games in questions, meaning they reach a worldwide audience of millions, it was added: “In the case of FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the Gaming Commission considers that the system of loot boxes is a game of chance that is subject to Belgian gaming law.

“The developer of Star Wars Battlefront II made some adjustments shortly after the launch, so that the system of loot boxes in that game no longer technically forms a game of chance.”

Issuing a judgement that loot boxes are a violation of gaming legislation, and can therefore be dealt under criminal law, instructions have been sent to relevant parties that they must be removed.  

Failure to do so risks a five year prison sentence and fine up to €800,000, which can be double in cases involving minors.

Totally Gaming says: Belgium has followed the example of its fellow Benelux union member the Netherlands in banning loot boxes, with the unprotected nature in which they are exposed to children highlighted as a particular concern. With manufacturers being called to halt the practice, it remains to be seen if further European nations, and even those further afield, continue with this trend.

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