Dutch Gaming Authority calls out four games as violating its lootbox policies

If you had expected the Netherlands to be leading the fight against lootboxes, you may be more clairvoyant than the rest of the population. After investigating 10 games, the Dutch Gaming Authority has found that four of the games tested feature lootboxes that violate the Better Gaming Act. That may not sound too serious until you consider that the offending games have eight weeks to make changes to the lootboxes to comply with the law.

Failure to do so can result in fines or just straight-up forbidding the games from being sold in the Netherlands. That’s a pretty big deal.

While the DGA did not specifically name games, the Dutch paper reporting on the situation cites FIFA ’18, Dota 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Rocket League as the offending titles. The remaining six titles are not in violation of the law but were still sharply criticized for the lootbox implementation, which is said to target younger players and encourage gambling. It’s also worth noting that each of these violations specifically pertains to tradeable items for real money, which just squeaks in as a gambling option.

Source: NOS, VG24/7
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ultorius
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ultorius

lol, no perfect world or kakao games on the list but somhow dota and fifa?Is this the opposite day?

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Utakata

#LockboxesPoisonsEverything

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dinwitt

Here I am, thinking that loot box systems where the items received from the box can be sold to others, allowing people to get the rare item they want, even if they don’t want to spend money on loot boxes, was one of the better ways to go about it.

Other than punishing what I feel is the better way to do loot boxes, its justification for targetting games doesn’t really make sense. For example, in Rocket League, as far as I am aware, there isn’t an officially sanctioned way to trade items for money, and the developers can’t really prevent third party sites from doing whatever they want to do. But they are potentially going to be fined for websites they don’t control. That’s messed up.

Finally, eight weeks is nothing in development time. Giving an eight week deadline is unreasonable for the size of change they are demanding. Probably the only thing that can happen in eight weeks is to get the various online platforms to not sell the game in the Netherlands. It certainly isn’t enough to create and implement a new business model.

P.S. Stop using children as an excuse. If this was really about protecting the children then you’d also be hitting any of the multitude of physical loot boxes that explicitly target them.

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Schmidt.Capela

But they are potentially going to be fined for websites they don’t control.

Whether there are external websites don’t seem to factor in the decision; instead, the issue seems to be whether the player can trade items received from the lootboxes. Games where you can’t trade the items with other players seem to not be infringing the new law.

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rafael12104

In before someone says this isn’t a big deal and that nothing has really changed. Lol!

Almighty FIFA is on the list too! Your move EA.

Ah, MOP. You made my day with this story.

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Kickstarter Donor
Peregrine Falcon

Your move EA.

The Netherlands has a population of less than 15 million people. That’s less than 5% of the US population. I seriously doubt EA cares what they say or do.

Veldan
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Patreon Donor
Veldan

Just over 17 million, actually

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rafael12104

Oh, it’s not the size that make up the twelve provinces that are The Netherlands that has me quite happy . Nope. It’s the fact that another EU country has stepped into the lootbox argument and this time they took action.

Lest we forget that Belgium and France are already looking at this too. Commercially the EU is quite an economic power and if action was deemed pertinent to that body? Well then, things would change in a huge hurry.

Think of it as stone rolling down the mountain for no apparent reason. If you look up, you might just see an avalanche following it.

And EA, I’m quite sure, would rather not be facing that.

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A Dad Supreme

This would probably piss off more of the FIFA players towards their own governments more than EA.

Not being able to play the biggest soccer videogame because their country banned it? It’s like all those crying Russian players flooding forums now because their government banned internet traffic and they can’t play WoW or other games lol.

I think EA will let the Netherlands and any other European country’s politicians suffer vs the voters if they truly start banning some games.

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Brother Maynard

The idea that something as frivolous as gaming will result in any kind of political pressure is amusing.

Loads of games have been banned in various EU countries, most notoriously in Germany, where anything that includes references to Nazis or their symbols is automatically banned – see Wolfenstein 3D, for example.

Games have never been anywhere close to politics and never will be. The only time they get a bit of political spotlight is when they do it by proxy, like with gambling or gun violence right now.

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Utakata

…something about setting precedents, and nothing really do with size or populations. /shrugs

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dinwitt

Why are you happy about this? Its outlawing loot boxes with tradable content, not loot boxes themselves. The only change is that more people will be buying loot boxes, because they can’t trade for the item they want.

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Schmidt.Capela

Without tradable content lootboxes become far less palatable for many players, yourself included it seems. Which will make them even less popular than they currently are, making it harder for companies to include them in games while avoiding player criticism or even backlash (as seen when EA found the backlash against SWBF2 lootboxes so troubling they stopped selling those lootboxes for half a year).

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dinwitt

My point is that loot boxes without tradable content are an objectively worse implementation of the system. By outlawing the trade of loot box content, they’re pushing everyone who would have bought the item they wanted to buy loot boxes until they get the item they want. I.e. the law to stop gambling is pushing more people into gambling.

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Simon

If you were to straight up ban lootboxes, you’d have to further define what a lootbox is. Banning the sale of lootboxes would be possible, but banning lootboxes themselves, that’d just bring up a whole load of other issues.

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Kayweg

Lets have a rebuttal video on that, shall we ?:)

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Simon

His argument is that if $60 games have microtransactions, they shouldn’t cost $60 to begin with. The microtransaction system was implemented as a way of increasing the amount of players who were willing to try out the game, while ensuring that there was a way to earn money.

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Dave

TL;DR – Game Development has increased costs over the last 10 years due to inflation, but the flat price for games has not (due to fears that players won’t buy games over $60). That cost has to be made up somehow, which is where DLC and Microtransactions come in. The only way around the Microtransactions and DLC would be to increase the flat cost altogether.

Basically, it’s loot boxes for a minor cost or a much larger upfront cost to ensure the game costs get paid for and still makes money.

Dantos
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Dantos

What they seem to skirt around in their videos talking about loot boxes, is that if the base prices for games DID increase, would those other revenue streams go away, given that there is no per-user limit on how much could be spent with microtransactions, whereas there would be with just an increased box price.

I think most of the AAA publishers would say “why not both?”

Pandora opened her lootbox, she cant stuff everything back inside and re-roll them.

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Dave

Let me go look, I believe they have a video on loot boxes that I didn’t add to that playlist.

@Dantos – I updated the playlist with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26ZX7NbOhks

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Tobasco da Gama

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Sana Tan

I love extra credits but I don’t agree on this. If it was true, then why the Witcher 3 costs $60 (or less?) without micro transactions, and still made enough money to fund a sequel?
I think that, if you make a good game, $60 is enough.

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Dave

You are leaving a LOT of unknown data out on the table:

1. The Witcher series is a single-player game, so additional overhead to account for online servers for hosting the game world/matches isn’t needed. That alone cuts a lot of Datacenter/Cloud, Server, Database, and Network costs (As well as the cost for the employees needed to maintain those).

2. CDProjektRed has a slower release cycle than many AAA game devs. The faster the release cycle for a AAA game, the more people will be needed to get it done in time without many bugs.

3. We don’t know CDProjektRed’s finances/revenue either. They could be paying less than average for their devs, they may just have a smaller team, etc. We don’t know.

4. You’re comparing Apples to Oranges. As mentioned in #1, The Witcher series doesn’t require the infrastructure backend that the listed games require to run as designed. Additionally, MMOs are a niche in gaming with less potential and active customers than other forms of gaming.

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Brother Maynard

1) Except very few studios do it that way and actually prefer to do it as p2p matches. No server costs, everything is hosted by the players.

2) Well… we all know how broken and buggy today’s games are when released. Customers are now basically considered beta testers and what’s more – eager to pay for testing. Also, whereas companies with slow release cycles have to keep their studios up through dry times (W3 is a rare exception, as it keeps selling incredibly well – but then, that’s W3), others like Activision or Ubisoft keep spamming us with the same garbage every year, only slightly re-coloured.

3) We DO know, if we want to…

4) Your example that requires the complex network backend is just a small fraction of all the games being produced. You have a tonne of other games that don’t need any of that and can be relatively easily compared. Like a W3-style SP game with a similar SP only game. Why do you keep insisting on mixing them with network-heavy games?

I’ll give you a nice – and very anecdotal – example: the South Park games produced by Ubisoft. Four years ago the first one was selling for 39.99. All the content was already in the game package – you got the whole thing. The 2017 version was selling for 59.99 – for this price, you got a barebone product that you could upgrade to five different editions (up to 150 dollars I think); you had seasons pass; you had day 1 DLCs; you had microtransactions…

Sure, it’s just one game – like I said, anecdotal evidence. But it exposes pretty well the whole ‘games are too cheap’ BS.

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Dave

1. I could see Rocket League being a peer-2-peer based multiplayer, but Hearthstone, Battlefield games, Battlefront games, etc most definitely have large server backends. Even if they don’t, they still have to have complex authentication systems for authenticating and storing player data.

2. All software is buggy and (to some extent) broken on launch. There are obviously some publishers that are far worse than others, but those publishers know that they can put out a game like Halo, Elder Scrolls, etc and people will buy it en-masse even if it is really buggy.

3. I can’t watch that now, but does it break down where that revenue comes from? Is it just related to the dev studio that made The Witcher games or is it for the parent company that also owns GOG?

4. I don’t think it is, at least not in the context of loot boxes. SP games rarely have loot boxes (although SP-only games are pretty rare now) and many games that do either had a high budget to make the game, was an indie dev who didn’t expect to sell enough to make the game profitable, and/or have complex server/network backends for playing the game (pretty much all MMOs). We also don’t account that while Rocket League is probably Peer-to-Peer networking, it does still have development on it (whereas the Witcher games are largely set in stone at this point, code-wise). Rocket League has to pay for the new development somehow, while W3 is purely just making money now.

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Darthbawl

PUBG devs suing the Netherlands in 3..2..1..SUE! :P