Loot Boxes Considered Child Gambling in Belgium
Loot boxes have been the bane of gamers for a while now. However, the Belgian Gaming Commission now condemns them altogether.
With the Netherlands declaring loot boxes illegal earlier this month, it is now Belgium’s turn. Koen Geens, the minister of justice, released a statement on April 25, stating that three video games violated the gambling legislation. Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Fifa 18 were all deemed offenders, inciting gambling, especially for children. Failure to comply with the legislation could expose companies to five years in prison and fines of €800,000.
Geens said, “Mixing games and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health. We have already taken numerous measures to protect both minors and adults against the influence of, among other things, gambling advertising. That is why we must also ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game.”
Loot boxes are a bundle of in-game items won or purchased and used to enhance the gaming experience, such as customization options for a character, better equipment, weapons or vehicles. They aim to encourage the player to spend real-world money in order to win these goodies. The problem with them is that the virtual consumables are often random, which means that players could spend a lot of money trying to get better items. In the end, they take a chance each time and unraveling the surprises can prove to be addictive, similar to a slot machine at the casino.
First introduced in MMO RPGs and now frequently in free-to-play mobile games, these loot boxes have crawled their way into AAA titles. Big games such as Star Wars Battlefront II have soured player enthusiasm because of this obvious cash-grabbing mechanic. While a consenting adult may understand the terms of the in-game contract in Overwatch, some games are aimed at children who do not possess the maturity and judgment to know when to stop. Loot boxes are alluring and their gifts are exciting and well-packaged.
The controversy is starting to make ripples seeing as loot boxes are under investigation by gambling regulators in several countries now. However, others such as the UK’s Gambling Commission, the New Zealand gambling regulator and the ESRB do not share the same view, which is why Geens wishes to start a dialogue.