Blizzard is disabling Overwatch and HOTS lockbox purchases for Belgian players

    
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Earlier this year, Belgium took up the anti-lootbox cause, becoming one of the first countries to investigate lockboxes in online games and ultimately threatening to ban multiple games that it deemed in violation of its federal gambling laws. You’ll probably recall that Valve took fairly quick action to avoid both the Belgian and Dutch authorities’ ire, disabling and then later patching CSGO and DOTA 2 lockboxes for players in those regions.

Overwatch also made the Belgian warning list, and now, Blizzard is responding by preventing Belgian players from buying lockboxes in both Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

“In April 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission published a report that was endorsed by the Belgian Ministry of Justice in which they concluded that paid loot boxes in Overwatch are considered gambling under local law,” the studio begins.

“While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law. As a result, we have no choice but to implement measures that will prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money and gems. No matter what, we want to make sure that our players around the world have the best entertainment experience possible. While players in Belgium will no longer be able to purchase paid loot boxes in Overwatch and loot chests in Heroes of the Storm, they’ll still be able to earn them by playing the games, and they’ll still have access to all in-game content.”

In less lockboxy news, Blizzard has released a behind-the-scenes video for its D.Va short, which you can watch below.

Source: Blizz EU forums. Thanks, Schmidt!
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Nyanko

As a Belgian casual Overwatch player who bought for only 50€ of lockboxes over 2 years: my first reaction was to consider it as a bit extreme because now I can’t support my favourite MP shooter anymore. But I agree that this is good to protect children and people with gambling issues. And now I want other countries to do the same so that Blizzard has to revise the whole system and let us buy credits (for individual skins).

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Akagi

The rest of the EU should follow Belgium, and hopefully soon there can be fines for people who cheat in games, like 1000 EUR fine or something, then enforce it throughout the EU, it will really help battle cheating.

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kgptzac

The only thing I’m surprised about this piece is the hero image showing a bored guy. What I had in mind is the WE DID IT gif which seem to fit the atmosphere better, lol.

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Knight Porter

Unless they change the pacing, all they did is make grinding mandatory, which is… a sidegrade at best?

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Arktouros

“The dominoes are falling! The dominoes are falling!” said the same people regarding the updates made for the same countries which each have different legal rulings on the matter. Two dominoes falling in different directions just doesn’t seem very impressive.

How’s that Chris Lee anti-lockbox bills doing in Hawaii? Surely there’s great news on the American side of this great moral issue!?!

Ohhhhhhh noooooooooo…

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Danny Smith

sweating_valve.mkv

Seriously though the best part of this is watching whales and lockbox addicts panic over the idea of their addiction being taken away from them. Choice examples i’ve seen today include “Y-you wouldn’t ban a kinder egg” and “Y-you are all just fucking poorfags!” some truly well thought out, logical rebuttals i would expect from the digital equivalent of man with a golden jaw being told he can’t buy more paint to huff from a paper bag.

Because the idea of being rewarded for gameplay instead of paying real cash for ‘funpay minibuy’ boxes of jpgs and texturemaps is somehow the worse deal to these nutjobs.

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Slaasher

I’ve been giving this some thought and I think that loot boxes ARE bad when you buy “random” loot boxes with real money then take a chance on whether you get what you want.
THAT is gambling plain and simple.
What Blizz does in Overwatch and HOTS is nothing like at all. They actually give stuff away for free by playing the game.
As I said below, the issue is not as simple as loot boxes = bad

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Schmidt.Capela

Which is why Belgium isn’t banning lootboxes per see, just the possibility of purchasing them with real money (or an intermediary currency that can be gotten with real money). Overwatch and HotS will still have lootboxes in Belgium, you just won’t be able to spend money to get more of them.

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Slaasher

They do? Why would they have them there and not here?

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Schmidt.Capela

Have what, the possibility of purchasing the lootbox for real money? AFAIK anywhere you can purchase Overwatch, you can also purchase lootboxes for it (and for HotS). Belgium will be the first exception.

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Slaasher

Nope sorry I’m afraid you are mistaken. I just logged in to my HOTS account (which I play every day to make sure). You CANNOT buy loot boxes in that game. You can only win them from playing and levelling your hero.
You CAN purchase items: skins, emotes, heroes etc.
But you know what you are paying for.
I believe it is the same for OW but I havent played it for awhile so i havent checked.
But what you said is definitely not the case for HOTS.

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Schmidt.Capela

In Overwatch you purchase lootboxes directly with money; they are even on Blizzard’s online store.

In Heroes of the Storm you purchase Gems using real money, and then use Gems to purchase lootboxes; thus, you can get more lootboxes (“Loot Chests”) by spending real money. That is what is being removed in Belgium, you won’t be able to spend Gems to get lootboxes there.

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Jack Pipsam

Woo! Go Belgium!

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Roger Melly

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if most of Europe will soon pass similar legislation to Belgium

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Sally Bowls

IIRC, the Netherlands has already examined OW loot boxes and determined that they, like all but 4 games’ lootboxes, are legal.

But the legislation would allow politicians get to attack gamers and corporations, so the way the winds are blowing, I think they will increase. (IMO, one can never discount the chance of aging politicos in any country do something bat-shit-crazy about technology/virtual/gig economy.)

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Schmidt.Capela

IIRC, the Netherlands has already examined OW loot boxes and determined that they, like all but 4 games’ lootboxes, are legal.

Legal but immoral, if I remember correctly, which included a plea for the companies whose business model were analyzed to voluntarily change their ways.

That seems to suggest that the Netherlands gambling commission would welcome the chance to work together with legislators to regulate lootboxes.

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Sally Bowls

I don’t remember legal but immoral, but that could be me and it seems plausible someone would say it. I would be surprised if a commission that is about letting legal gambling happen would criticise something not quite gambling as immoral.

Most regulators in most countries are comfortable with expanding their fiefdoms by extending what gets regulated.

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Schmidt.Capela

Directly from the Netherlands Gambling Authority report released in April:

Six of the ten loot boxes that were studied do not contravene the law. In these games, there is no question of in-game goods with a market value and they therefore do not satisfy the definition of a prize under Article 1 of the Betting and Gaming Act. As these loot boxes could nevertheless foster the development of addiction, these games are at odds with the objective of preventing addiction to organized games as much as possible.

To date, the supervisory body has not been able to establish that providers of the games implement control measures to exclude vulnerable groups such as minors and to prevent addiction.

The report asks companies to change lootboxes to make them less addiction-inducing, for example by removing any visual or audio clue that could suggest to the player that he “almost won”, the visual and aural effects that accompany the opening of lootboxes, putting limits on how fast or often players can open lootboxes, and devising ways to protect vulnerable groups such as children.

So, basically, while the report said that only 4 of the 10 analyzed games technically violate the law as it stands, it also asks all publishers that use lootboxes to change them. Sounds like a clear call for further regulation to me.

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BalsBigBrother

Hmm well they do still earn them by playing the game but of all the games to pick on Overwatch really.

I have never purchased a lockbox in Overwatch for real cash and I have pretty much everything there is to get just through playing. To the point that I tend to get the in game currency for duplicates these days. I had so much banked that I just used it all to purchase everything that came with the current Summer Games 2018 promo event and still have four thousand or so left over.

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Danny Smith

Like any sane person would but there are people that will see a new events up, spend hundreds if not a grand on lockboxes. Get what they want, play a match and say they hate the game and not play it again. Doing it everytime theres an event.

Exhibit A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv3TaNq1brM

A man loads up a game he hates and doesnt play and spends over two hours buying and opening lockboxes. Then closes the game and uninstalls it.

Game companies must adore these rubes.

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BalsBigBrother

I hope someone points him towards whatever treatment he needs for his issues

Mitzruti
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Mitzruti

Or in other words, Belgium alone isn’t big enough to get companies to find a less predatory model. any guesses on how many dominoes need to fall first?

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Slaasher

I dunno. Blizzard has, IMO, the least “predatory” model out there. In HOTS, for instance, before 2.0 you had to buy the skins etc in the cash shop.
Now i can get a free loot box anytime any of my heroes levels up. I have literally received hundreds of dollars in loot for free that I wouldnt have gotten otherwise unless I paid through the nose.
If I want something bad enough without having to wait for RNG then I can still go to the cash shop and buy it like before but at least now I am getting tons of free loot.

I don’t think this issue is as cut and dry as
loot boxes = bad

They’re not bad in all cases. /shrug.

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BalsBigBrother

Yeah that has pretty much been my experience in Overwatch

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Dug From The Earth

Not all cases of selling things employ predatory tactics.

At a certain point, One has to take responsibility for Ones own money.

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J

Most of Europe would be my guess. I look forward to the fall of gamble boxes.