A new report has claimed that the strict Belgium loot box laws, which effectively prohibit studios from including loot boxes in games, are not being properly enforced. The study goes on to recommend against blanket loot box bans and urges other countries to find a different solution for dealing with problems caused by loot boxes.
What does this new study say about Belgian loot box laws?
Since 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission has effectively prohibited the inclusion of loot boxes in games by classifying them as gambling, thus requiring studios to obtain a gambling license to include them in games. This law has caused developers to alter their practices in Belgium, but if a new study is to be believed, the law is flagrantly being breached and isn't being properly enforced. The report, which was carried out by researcher Leon Y. Xiao and originally spotted by GamesIndustry.biz, says that of the 100 highest-grossing Belgian iPhone games, 82% of them were still generating revenue through a "randomized monetization method" (i.e. loot boxes). In addition, 80.2% of iPhone games "rated suitable for young people aged 12+" still included loot boxes, according to Xiao's report.
The fact that 82% of the top iOS games in Belgium still include loot boxes has led Xiao to conclude that the Belgian loot box ban has "not been effectively enforced". According to Xiao, both unenforced bans and enforced bans have disadvantages. In the case of the first, scrupulous games may be replaced by non-compliant alternatives, meaning loot box proliferation increases, and gamers may be laboring under a false sense of security. In the second case, an enforced ban could "[curtail] companies' commercial interests" and unfairly distribute revenue to non-compliant companies. In addition, Xiao says that even in the case of companies who did obey the ban, the process of circumventing ban compliance measures is easy, and high-level players are expected to be able to take advantage of this process with little trouble.
Xiao concludes his report by suggesting that the elimination of loot boxes from a country's gaming industry is "not practically achievable". He recommends not only that Belgium re-evaluate its position on regulating loot boxes, but that a blanket ban on loot boxes shouldn't be recommended to other countries around the world either. According to Xiao, the global gaming industry should consider "less restrictive approaches to loot box regulation" rather than implementing national bans that, according to him, don't work.
What's the problem with loot boxes?
Belgium is just one of several countries around the world to come down hard on loot boxes. Opponents of this system say it's tantamount to gambling since loot boxes are a system whereby players receive randomized content in exchange for real money. Countries like Australia, the UK, and the Netherlands have all either drawn links between gambling and loot boxes or regulated them heavily, and studies have even suggested that young gamers are ending up in debt due to the inclusion of loot boxes in games.
It remains unclear how the world will respond to Xiao's report, or whether it will change certain governments' regulatory approach to loot boxes, let alone the Belgian government. One thing's for sure, though: this debate isn't going away anytime soon. Studios want to make money with loot boxes, as they're proven to be hugely profitable (especially in the mobile space), and many regulators want to crack down on them. As long as nothing changes, that debate will continue to rage. Stay tuned to TechRaptor for more info on this.