Back in 2017, at the height of mainstream outrage over lockbox shenanigans, Belgium became one of the very first countries to take the problem seriously (instead of just passing the buck). The Belgian committee assigned to investigate concluded in November that “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling” and pledged to ban them.
Now, the country has effectively done just that. Its Gaming Commission spent several months investigating multiple games, ultimately finding that Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are operating in violation of its laws specifically because of their lockbox mechanics.
“To speak of a game of chance, the Gaming Commission uses four parameters. If there is a game element, a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game. In the case of FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the Gaming Commission decides that the system of loot boxes forms a game of chance that is subject to Belgian gaming law. The developer of Star Wars Battlefront II made some adjustments shortly after the launch, so that the system of loot boxes in that game no longer technically forms a game of chance. Although the system of loot boxes in the three other video games can be seen as a game of chance, there is always lack of protection for the players. The fact that it is often minor players is worrying. The hidden character of gambling is extra problematic in the case of children. If this is not properly arranged, games of chance in video games will cause great damage to people, family and society.”
Consequently, the office of the Minister of Justice says in a press release, those three titles are subject to criminal law.
“The loot boxes must therefore also be removed,” the announcement says. “If that does not happen, the operators risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros. When minors are involved, those punishments can be doubled.”