Belgium’s Gaming Commission is still determining whether loot boxes in gaming are gambling, but the country’s minister of justice Koen Geens is already saying that he will try to ban the process of blind, randomized loot boxes completely, according to a report from the news website VTM (first reported by PC Gamer). This comes after Electronic Arts courted headlines that it was bringing gambling to children in its Star Wars: Battlefront II shooter that launched last week.
The Belgium Gaming Commission said last week that it is investigating loot boxes as gambling, but Geens is already prepared to determine it a dangerous confluence of forces, according to a Google translation of the VTM story.
“Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child,” Geens said in a statement.
Geens says that Belgium will go to the European Union with the purpose of ending this business model. I’m reaching out to Geens’ office and the Gambling Commission to ask about a possible exception for adults.
Loot boxes are a major source of revenue for a large portion of the gaming business. They come in the form of character skins and emotes in Overwatch or booster packs in collectible-card games like Hearthstone. Publisher and developers like this model because it enables the most dedicated players to spend an almost unlimited amount of money on their favorite games. This has enabled publishers to go from releasing product after product to supporting one piece of software as a service for years.
EA was going to enable players to pay real money to acquire loot boxes in Battlefront II that would give advantages in multiplayer sessions. That turned into a consumer revolt. Disney even stepped in hours before DICE removed real-money transactions from the game. But that revolt involved a lot of gamers claiming that the government should regulate loot boxes because they are no different than slot machines, and that drew the attention of the Belgium Gaming Commission. Now, this business model is standing on shaky ground, and it could collapse if Europe institutes a ban.
Correction: I originally reported that Belgium’s gaming commission determined that loot boxes are gambling. That is not the case. Instead, the country’s justice minister made new comments about his intent to outlaw the business model while the commission continues its investigation.