[Update: The Belgium Gaming Commission has not actually come to a conclusion on loot boxes as gambling, according to a post from RTBF.be. Belgium’s Minister of Justice simply stated what must be determined for any ruling to happen. As such, the Belgium Gaming Commission is still investigating the matter.]
This is an outcome many saw coming, just one that we never expected to happen so quickly. With the fiasco surrounding Battlefront II and microtransactions, people were hoping some type of regulation would be coming for loot boxes. Whether or not you agree they are a form of gambling, as far as Belgium is concerned, these predatory tactics are going to officially be classified as such.
Last week, we reported on how the Belgium Gaming Commission was launching an investigation into whether or not loot boxes constituted as a form of digital gambling. In the words of the Commission’s director, Peter Naessens, “If there is a game of chance, it is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission.” Guess what conclusion they came to.
“The mixing of money and addiction is gambling,” the translated VTM News article concludes. “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child,” said Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens. Reportedly, Geens’ ultimate goal would be to ban these types of in-game purchases in their entirety and not even solely in Belgium. “We will certainly try to ban it,” Geens declares.
I can’t say I disagree with that sentiment, either. I certainly understand that making entertainment is a job and not everything is created with some artistic merit, but to turn each product into a glorified slot machine has never sat well with me. I don’t enjoy gambling specifically because of how random it feels, so purposely gating content behind randomized drops has rubbed me the wrong way since the first time I saw it in a game.
Whatever the ultimate outcome, at least one government fully recognizes how ludicrous the concept of a loot box is. Even if it never becomes an official law, hopefully publishers learn their lesson and we won’t see them shifting into a different business model with which to nickel and dime customers.