The District Court of The Hague has ruled that EA violated the Netherlands' Gambling Act through its use of "Packs" in FIFA. This ruling effectively means the Netherlands has classified loot boxes as gambling, and has imposed a hefty fine on EA as a result. Naturally, EA is appealing the fine.
What does this ruling over FIFA loot boxes mean for EA?
This news comes via the official Netherlands Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit or KSA) website. According to the KSA, FIFA's loot boxes are "illegal" under Dutch law because the packs "sometimes have a high value and...can occasionally be traded". This constitutes a violation of the Netherlands Gambling Act, which states that a game of chance allowing receipt of a prize or premium is only allowed if the developer holds a license. EA does not hold such a license, so FIFA's loot boxes are illegal. The Court of The Hague is fining EA up to 5 million euros, with a 500,000-euro-per-week penalty if the publisher refuses to make changes to FIFA in order to remove loot boxes.
For its part, EA is appealing the ruling. Speaking to Eurogamer, EA said it was "disappointed" by the gambling authority's decision. According to EA, the company "[does] not believe that our products and services violate gambling laws in any way". In order to resolve the situation, EA says it remains open to discussing the issue with the Dutch authorities and will try its best not to impact the ability of Dutch gamers to "fully experience and enjoy FIFA Ultimate Team".
What is the background for this decision?
In 2018, a study (please note: the article is entirely in Dutch) carried out by the KSA found that there could be a correlation between buying loot boxes in games and developing a gambling addiction. As such, the KSA called on game developers to adapt games so that they no longer infringed the Gambling Act. According to the KSA, a number of developers did so, but EA did not, resulting in the ruling revealed today.
This isn't the first time loot boxes have been in the headlines in the Netherlands. Last year, Rocket League developers Psyonix had to make changes to loot boxes in that game in the Netherlands as a result of government regulation. Similar decisions were made in Belgium, where Blizzard removed paid loot boxes from Overwatch and Square Enix did the same for a few of its games. This battle is unlikely to end anytime soon as publishers fight to keep potentially lucrative loot boxes in their games while government regulators seek to stem what they perceive to be damaging mechanics in these games. We'll bring you more as we get it.
How do you feel about the KSA's decision and EA's appeal? Let us know in the comments below!