Update: According to RTBF, the Belgian Gambling Commission has not made a final decision or statement on gambling in regards to loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch. Their investigation is still ongoing. The confusion seems to have arisen from translation issues. As of now, the commission has not made its final decision but Belgium’s Minister of Justice has made his thoughts public.
Original Story: The Belgian Gaming Commission has weighed in on the Loot Box controversy that has been surrounding the gaming industry as of late.
Last week, the Belgian Gaming Commission had reportedly begun investigating EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch for their implementation of Loot Boxes. Today, the Commission made a statement outlining that “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling.” Belgium’s Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, discussed in the Belgian Press his thoughts on the controversy, believing that loot boxes are a form of gambling, and must be removed because of the loot boxes can have on children. Geens also noted in his statement that “mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
The two games in question under the Belgian Gaming Commission have already made changes to their overall loot box schemes. Overwatch has already improved its loot box system earlier this year reducing the number of duplicate skins a player can earn, while Star Wars Battlefront 2 has scaled back many of the major features that fans originally railed against. While the Belgium Gaming Commission has released this statement there has been no official ruling on the implementation of loot boxes in video game. Geens, however, is hoping to have the Commission submit a report to the European Union to weigh in on the controversy. It would be a long time before any form of legislature would be passed, if at all, regarding the situation.
It should be noted that previously both the ESRB and the PEGI rating boards have also weighed in on the topic, with the ESRB stating that loot boxes are not classified as gambling and while there is “an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content.” The PEGI board, however, has said only a Gaming Commission, such as the BGC, can make such distinctions. Listed below is PEGI’s full statement:
“In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB (I think all rating boards do, USK in Germany as well). The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling. That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it’s done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.”
Other nations have already requested changes to loot box system, most notably China requiring Overwatch to show loot drop rates. It is possible the same fate may befall Belgium, but the intention of Minister Geens is to have loot boxes banned completely, which may cause massive financial ramifications for companies. Belgium is not the only nation today to make an announcement regarding the loot box controversy either. Chris Lee, a representative of the State of Hawaii, announced today that there will be an investigation in the future regarding the “predatory” practices of loot boxes.
“We are here today to ensure future protections for kids, youth and everyone when it comes to the spread of predatory practices in online gaming and the significant financial consequences that it can have on families, and has been having on families around this nation.” – Chris Lee
Lee specifically names Star Wars Battlefront 2 as a “Star Wars themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money, it’s a trap”
TechRaptor’s own Nick Malliet and Alex Parker have discussed at length the controversy in our own new weekly news update, found on YouTube. Other Gaming Commissions, most notably the Dutch Gaming Commission, which has yet to make a statement regarding the whole controversy.
What do you think of the Belgian Gaming Commission thinking of these loot boxes as a form of gambling? Do you think that this will set a trend for other similar agencies? If this continues do you think this will be beneficial or harmful to the video game industry?