If you thought Belgium and The Netherlands were going to keep on standing alone in the fight against lootboxes, you were very much mistaken, as the pile of new lockbox stories flooding my RSS feeds in the last few days can attest.
At the top of the list is the resolution issued by 16 member nations of the 2018 Gambling Regulators European Forum. The international group, which does include a representative from the US, signed a declaration covering two topics of note: concerns over third-party game-related betting and skin-gambling websites, and the potential for lootbox models to bleed over into legitimate gambling according to each nation’s laws. As Eurogamer notes, it’s chiefly a declaration of intent to investigate and “signals a major shift in the loot box regulation debate.”
Moreover, Finland has apparently joined in as well; according to the Finnish website Helsingen Sanomat, Finnish police are investigating at least one complaint relating to lootboxes as its Lottery Administration has issued a ruling finding that lockboxes do indeed “fall within the scope of the lottery law,” specifically because purchasers do not know what’s in the lootboxes beforehand, can often be exchanged for money, and “the opening of a lootbox can be made in whole or in part by paying for a non-gaming game within the game’s internal currency.” (With a little help from Google Translate there.) While it looks like the country isn’t threatening to expel games with lootboxes, the lottery agency has recommended a revamp of the law to better protect consumers and provide gaming companies the proper operational licenses.
This past weekend, we covered a paper from a group of UK academics that found a startling relationship between lockbox purchasing and real-world problem gambling. Its findings have apparently been bolstered by the findings of a second survey, this one of over 7000 gamers, by the Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee using the same authors.
Today, myself and Paul Cairns gave testimony to the Australian Senate Inquiry into loot boxes. This is a copy of our joint opening statement.
— David Zendle (@davidzendle) September 17, 2018
Just in the last few weeks, Blizzard halted the sale of lockboxes in Overwatch for players in Belgium, while the country reportedly began an investigation into EA’s seeming refusal to comply with its mandate in regard to lockboxes in FIFA.