Back in April, the Belgian Gambling Commission looked into the loot box systems in Star Wars Battlefront 2, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and FIFA 18 to see if they were in violation of the country’s gambling legislation (gambling is illegal in Belgium).
They subsequently determined that the loot boxes found in Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and FIFA 18 were considered a game of chance and they were therefore declared illegal, with Minister of Justice Koen Geens demanding they be removed from the games and saying that anyone who failed to adhere to the ruling would “”risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros”.
Following these events, Blizzard and Valve adhered to the ruling and removed all loot boxes from their games in Belgium, but EA have done absolutely f**k all about it and are now reportedly being investigated by the Brussels public prosecutor’s office, according to the Belgian publication Metro.
A translation of the report on Metro reads:
“The Brussels public prosecutor’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the company Electronic Arts because it continues to offer ‘loot boxes’ in its video games FIFA 18 and 19. The prosecution reports today. ‘Loot boxes’ are virtual surprise packages that the players can purchase with real money. The Gaming Commission believes that a form of gambling and other game developers already gave up the ‘loot boxes’. However, EA refuses to do so. According to the Gaming Commission, the ‘loot boxes’ are actually an illegal game of chance because players do not know exactly what the treasure box contains when they make a purchase. Happiness determines whether or not you receive a rare object. At the end of August game developer Blizzard stopped at the request of the Commission in our country with the sale of ‘loot boxes’ in the games Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm and previously developers told Valve and 2K Games ‘loot boxes’ no longer against real money to offer. Only the fourth big player, EA, does not want to give in.”
It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that EA have failed to adhere to the ruling. Last time a figure was reported (March 2017), CFO Blake Jorgensen confirmed that FIFA Ultimate Team is worth $800 million in revenue a year and that they were constantly trying to find new ways to put similar systems in all of their games. EA are, unashamedly, the absolute kings of rinsing customers of their money.
You can read what we think about downloadable content/loot boxes and the impact they’ve had on gaming here.