DICE and Electronic Arts are getting pelted from every which direction for their anti-consumer practices. The latest group to join the fray is the Belgian Gaming Commission.
According to a post on Imgur, which managed to make it to the front page, where they explain that the commission responsible for overseeing gambling licenses under the Belgian Ministry of Justice have opened up an investigation into Star Wars: Battlefront II and Overwatch for unlicensed gambling.
The social media spread of this news started on the Belgium news outlet VTM Nieuws, which published an article on November 15th, 2017 indicating that the official Belgian Gaming Commission have opened up the investigation after being tipped off that gamers could pay to improve characters and vehicles in Star Wars: Battlefront II. They were also informed of Blizzard’s Overwatch and the ability to purchase loot boxes to unlock new cosmetic items and non-gameplay affecting accessories.
Peter Naessens, the director of Belgium’s Gaming Commission, told VTM Nieuws that since it’s a game of chance to unlock items via loot boxes, it could classify as gambling, saying…
“It is therefore dependent on chance how well you can play the game. And in that case, this is one of the games of chance, “ […] “If there is a game of chance, [this activity] is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission”
According to VTM, Electronic Arts and Activision could be fined hundreds of thousands if they’re found guilty of simulated gambling via use of real money. Alternatively, the games could be pulled from store shelves.
One of the biggest factors is that the games are rated ‘T’ for Teen and aimed at those under the legal gambling age.
Some argued that premium loot box sales isn’t considered gambling because you always get something. However, the Washington State Gambling Commission in the United States vehemently disagreed with that assessment and forced Valve to have Counter-Strike: Global Offensive loot box gambling rings shut down, since they were operating without a gambling license and catering their services to minors. This is despite the fact that you always won something from the Counter-Strike loot boxes.
Given that the precedent has already been set, the outcome of this particular situation will depend on how far Belgium’s Gaming Commission will be willing to pursue the matter against EA and Activision.
The issue is also gaining a lot of widespread attention and traction, especially from parents who have been sharing the following image across social media to alert others about Star Wars: Battlefront II’s loot boxes.
Many shills and marketers attempting to defend Electronic Artys have tried passing the buck to physical collectible card games as well, claiming that collectible cards should be labeled gambling if loot boxes are considered gambling. However, the differences are quite stark insofar that collectible cards have trade-in value, therefore the transference of value can actually be shifted to warrant the purchaser the option of income or acquisition of another item of equal value. Loot boxes are non-transferable and the items are also non-transferable, and whatever you spend on loot boxes cannot be refunded. You are literally gambling money on chance and with no added return value of the expenditure.
Nevertheless, Belgium isn’t the only one keeping an eye on loot boxes in video games. The U.K. Gambling Commission has also said they would be reviewing the situation involving loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II when the game launches this Friday on November 17th.