Instead of implementing a more modest and consumer-friendly monetization method for the games Mobius Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts Union X and Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, Square Enix decided to simply pull all three games from Belgium due to the new loot box ban set in place within the region.
The Guardian is reporting that since all three games utilize loot boxes as their main monetization method, Square didn’t want to go through the scrupulous task of changing the monetary infrastructure for each game and decided instead to simply pull them from the app stores for Belgium players.
This is due to Belgium’s law prohibiting loot boxes in games that aren’t licensed to include gambling.
Within the region their gambling commission did an investigation and found that loot boxes are indeed gambling, and therefore they can only be included in games from publishers that are legally licensed to run gambling services, and that users obviously have to be over the age of 21. Since game publishers are not legally licensed to operate gambling services and since their games are not aimed at users over the age of 21, the loot boxes that operate using real-world money must be banned.
Belgium is essentially enforcing existing gambling laws, however, publishers aren’t too fond of this measure even though gamers have been clapping and cheering for these enforcements since the loot boxes got way out of hand when EA decided to turn Star Wars: Battlefront II into a gambling den. It was only because of Disney stepping in did the loot box mechanism get scrapped.
In this case, however, Belgium is making sure publishers abide by the law, and back in April of 2018 justice minister Koen Geens acknowledged that loot boxes targeting kids, teens, and adults just looking to have fun is “dangerous”…
“Mixing games and gambling, especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health. 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.”
Geens’ statement isn’t an opinion, either.
The U.K. Gambling Commission recently did a study and found that kids at younger and younger ages are being introduced into gambling. 31% of kids have purchased loot boxes, and percentage rates are increasing each year for kids who were previously non-gamblers under the age of 16, and kids who have begun gambling under the age of 16. A lot of this was initially spurred on by Counter-Strike betting rings, which were supposedly shutdown back in 2016 after various gambling commissions stepped in and forced Valve to issue cease and desist letters to the ring operators.
It looks like with Belgium’s law doing what it’s supposed to do, some publishers are complying and removing the loot boxes, while others are just taking their loot boxes (and the pseudo games attached to them) and pulling out of the region altogether.