Belgium’s gambling authority, the Belgian Gaming Commission, has launched an investigation into Star Wars: Battlefront II and Overwatch to determine if the loot boxes in those games constitute gambling, according to VTM News. Games of chance require a permit from the Gaming Commission in Belgium, and due to the random nature of loot boxes, they could fall into that category.
Belgian Gaming Commission director Peter Naessens said (via PCGamesN), “If there is a game of chance, it is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission.” If the commission determines that the loot crate system is a game of chance, the publishers of the games in question–Electronic Arts and Blizzard–could have to a pay a fine amounting to “hundreds of thousands of Euros.” It’s also reportedly possible that the games could be removed from sale in Belgium.
Battlefront II’s loot boxes can contain items that actually affect gameplay, while Overwatch’s are cosmetic only. It’s unclear if this would impact the ruling, however.
“Games of chance cannot be compared to any other kind of economic services,” reads a line from the commission’s charter. “They may cause people to become addicted to gambling and cause them to lose a great deal of money. For this reason, a number of protective measures have been implemented to protect players against these sorts of potential risks.”
We have contacted Electronic Arts and Blizzard in an attempt to get their response to Belgium’s investigation. We’ll report back with new information as it comes to light.
The Chinese version of Overwatch displays some loot box odds, though the game does not in other parts of the world. For its part, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said Overwatch does not belong in the loot box controversy discussion because the game only offers cosmetic items in its crates.
According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which is not a government agency, loot boxes do not constitute gambling. “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want),” a spokesperson told Kotaku. “We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”
EA has faced a wave of criticism over Battlefront II’s loot box/microtransaction systems. Just this week, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen said “people need to be patient” as the developer responds to player feedback and makes necessary changes.
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