According to Gaming Commission director Peter Naessens, the investigation, which includes Star Wars Battlefront II and Overwatch, began because loot boxes don’t reveal their contents until after players have purchased them, rather than traditional microtransactions, which give players a clear indication of what they’re buying. Under Belgian law, the Gaming Commission must provide a license before publishers are able to include gambling in their games. With the Gaming Commission concluding that loot boxes are a form of gambling, Electronic Arts may have to halt sales of the game in Belgium.
“The mixing of money and addiction is gambling,” said Belgium’s Gaming Commission (via PC Gamer). Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens also weighed in, saying, “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
Now Geens wants to ban in-game purchases like loot boxes in Belgium and throughout Europe. Outside of Belgium, Hawaii is also looking into taking action against the “predatory practices” at Electronic Arts and other companies.
Electronic Arts has already come under heavy fire from fans for the system it implemented in Battlefront II, which uses loot boxes as a way to earn items necessary for upgrading damage and other abilities. The game also originally had both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader locked behind an in-game currency paywall that would have taken as much as forty hours of normal playtime in order to earn just one character. The backlash led to the required credits being slashed by 75 percent. It could be too little and too late, however, as the game currency sits at an abysmal 0.9 user score on Metacritic. We liked the game, for the most part, but found the loot box system to be “confusing and irritating.”
Both Star Wars Battlefront II and Overwatch are available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. For now, you can still purchase them in Belgium.
Update: Revised to reflect that Belgium’s Gaming Commission concluded loot boxes are a form of gambling.