Belgian Gaming Commission Decides Battlefront 2-Style Loot Boxes Are Gambling, Wants Them Banned

Electronic Art's Star Wars Battlefront 2, one of the biggest video game titles of the year, debuted to disaster in recent weeks after both consumers and the gaming press revolted against the $100 game's reliance on microtransaction-fuelled, pay-to-win loot boxes. At launch, the title prevented players from accessing key features of the game such as playing as Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader without either gruelling grinds or shelling out extra cash to help bypass its confusing internal economy.

Photo: AP

Crucially, some elements of the system such as loot box contents were randomised - meaning even players who chose to give EA more money could still walk away frustrated. Last week, the Belgian Gaming Commission reportedly launched an investigation into whether the system constituted a violation of gambling laws.

According to PC Gamer and VTM Nieuws, the commission's decision is clear: It considers inserting randomised pay-to-win schemes into video games as equivalent to the "mixing of money and addiction", and thus a form of gambling such as video slot machines. Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens added, "Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child." He noted that Belgium would have to work through the European Union's process to achieve a total ban.

This has potentially huge ramifications for the video game industry, which has seen some of its biggest players turn to milking players for micro-transaction revenue even after they have shelled out money for the original product. The Belgian ruling doesn't address that issue directly - consumers would still be allowed to pay for specific bonuses or items - but it does suggest that the trend is starting to become abusive enough that regulators are setting limits to how far it can extend its grimy tentacles. It's also likely to be particularly embarrassing for EA, which has already seen such an incredible backlash to Battlefront 2's model that it's in the uncomfortable position of tanking a flagship Star Wars game in the middle of a rebooted franchise.

While gamers are notoriously rabid opponents of government infringement on the industry, it's hard to see them sticking their nose up at this one.

[PC Gamer]

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    This is very good news. I'd rather pay a little more for the game itself, than have to deal with microtrasaction bullshit. Developers need to start worrying more about the quality of a game and ensuring it's polished and actually ready for release, with new content already in the works that they can afford to be working on, than having to rely on in game transaction models.

    Yeah I absolutely understand that these companies are in it to make a profit, and some of the games which are produced return more profit than some box office movies these days. But that in itself is proof that these companies have no right to complain about "everything being so expensive" and closing gaming departments just so they can rake a few $bn more profit out of a game, when they should be looking after those who are enabling them to have these profit margins in the first place.

    Here's hoping a similar ruling makes it's way to Australia as well.

      Its less of a ruling and more the government looking at the games, look at the law, then facepalm themselves for missing the obvious.

      Belguim took less than a week to go we are looking into this...yes its gambling.

      Its a 100k fine per day for operating gambling without a permit to any Australian citizen. Retroactive plus punitive and criminal charges for involving minors. Back pedal fast game and mobile software industry... the fines are compounding.

      Get the ball rolling. Contact your MP or one of your senators about it.

    First step to Victory... thankyou Disney and EA for doing this in such a high profile manner.

    Belguim is the pseudo capital of the EU... this could be fast tracked pretty quickly. Declaring it gambling means lots of regulation compliance and auditing. Permits, lengthy approvals and bans on sales to children should be enough of a threat for PEGI abd ESRB to step in and create ab industry code of practice before the EU regulates.

    Also by declaring it gambling... could make it illegal retroactively, meaning punitive damages and fines for any and all past loot box sales (especially to children). For corporations its 6 figure some per day for illegal gambling or gamvling without permits. Also this could include phone games.

    Good! Agree!

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