2K Games is asking its Belgian fans to "contact [their] local government representative" if they want to see paid loot boxes in the MyTeam mode of NBA 2K19.
The Belgian edition of NBA 2K19 will launch without paid loot box-style card packs after the Belgian Gaming Commission determined that content such as this constitutes a form of illegal gambling. As such, players in Belgium won't be able to buy card packs in the game's MyTeam mode with real money. This is the only way in which the Belgian version of the game will differ from others; in all other respects, it appears NBA 2K19 will be the same game, just without the ability to use premium currency for purchases.
In a statement on its official website, 2K says it's "working to comply with the BGC's current interpretation of [loot box] laws", and that it's involved in ongoing conversations with the Belgian government to overturn the ruling in particular reference to NBA 2K19. The company's stance is that NBA 2K19's card packs are already OK by Belgian gambling laws. 2K says that if you agree, you should contact your local government representative and "communicate your opinion" to them.
Whether the Belgian government backs down on this or not remains to be seen, but for now, it doesn't look like you'll be able to buy card packs with real currency if you're a Belgian NBA 2K19 player. It is worth noting that last year's NBA 2k18 drew pretty heavy criticism for its overabundance of microtransactions, so some might see this removal as a blessing in disguise.
"Loot boxes" is an umbrella term referring to any paid content in a video game which contains randomized "loot" for the player. Whether the loot is cosmetic or it bestows gameplay advantages is irrelevant in terms of legal definitions; it's simply whether a player is paying real-world money for a random chance of obtaining certain items.
This restriction is the latest consequence of a long line of international governments looking at loot boxes and deciding whether they officially constitute gambling. Countries like Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium have all decided that loot boxes fall under the definition of gambling; Blizzard recently pulled paid loot boxes from Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm in Belgium, while the European game rating commission PEGI recently announced an "in-game purchases" label to warn consumers of microtransactions in their games.
This controversy isn't likely to settle down any time soon, as loot boxes can be a pretty major source of income for a video game post-launch; speaking to Trusted Reviews, 2K's Rob Jones called microtransactions "an unfortunate reality of modern gaming" if a developer is to extract additional revenue from players after the initial purchase. We'll bring you more news on this situation as we get it.
What do you think about NBA 2K19 and loot boxes? Let us know in the comments below!