Flemish Games Association speaks out against Belgium’s loot box ban

    
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You may recall that last year, the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) released a report in which it concluded that “the purchase of loot boxes by players […] is highly problematic” and subsequently banned their sales in Belgium, a decision which has apparently ruffled the feathers of some industry professionals. Specifically, the Flemish Gaming Association (FLEGA) has taken issue with Belgium’s loot-box ban, claiming that it’s unfair.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, FLEGA spokesman David Verbruggen said, “I just don’t think it’s fair… The public perception now is that a lot of politicians and people think that every video game is some form of gambling, and that is not really what is happening.” Verbuggen goes on to argue that the BGC’s motivations in banning loot-box sales are less than altruistic:

“Then we’re asking ourselves, ‘Why?’ What does the commission want to achieve? Do they want more money for their operations? Do they want to fund the state treasure chest? It’s also about taxation. It’s about gambling licenses. It’s about money. You will have to pay the gambling commission to be able to continue to do paid lootboxes.”

According to Verbruggen, FLEGA was also rankled by the fact that the BGC didn’t allow industry stakeholders to weigh in on the issue and propose alternative solutions prior to banning loot boxes under Belgian gambling laws, although BGC Director Peter Naessens said in an e-mail to GamesIndustry.biz that industry stakeholders were indeed consulted and that “the report was presented to the commission members who ‘unanimously did support the content and conclusions.'”

Nevertheless, FLEGA believes that the industry itself should be responsible for regulating loot boxes — an opportunity that Verbruggen says was denied by the BGC: “When the report came out, we talked to the BGC and we said, as an industry we have to be responsible and have to maybe do more to help parents with these issues and protect minors, and we proposed a lot of things. They just said, ‘No, we’re going ahead with prosecution anyway.'”

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Crowe

“Nevertheless, FLEGA believes that the industry itself should be responsible for regulating loot boxes”
I agree. But the industry didn’t self-regulate so I applaud the Belgian government and hope more governments follow that example.

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Roger Melly

“Nevertheless, FLEGA believes that the industry itself should be responsible for regulating loot boxes”

or in other words… let’s put a shark in charge of the swimming pool

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Adam Russell

It is a problem that they are selling gambling to kids.
What they should do is allow the owner of the account – the parent – to lockout in-game purchases. And make that lockout require 2 part authentication to remove. That way the kids cant figure out how to bypass it.

Then the remaining issue is what if the child owns his own account and pays with his own credit card. But then if the child is mature enough to pay for the purchases himself then isnt he mature enough that you dont have to prevent him from gambling?

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Roger Melly

The flaw in that logic is that unless they are gamers most parents probably don’t even know there are lockboxes in games .

Even if they did some parents are irresponsible , some are technically challenged and wouldn’t know how to disable it and others are so busy it wouldn’t even enter their heads .

In an ideal world your solution is the most common sense one but unfortunately it’s not an ideal world . This is the reason I support banning them and hope my country ( the UK ) follows Belgium’s example .

Then again my views my be swayed by the fact I hate lootboxes lol

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Adam Russell

Perhaps, but I bet when those charges show up on their CC they will notice!

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thirtymil

In other news, foxes say it’s not fair that they’re not in charge of the chicken coop, blame their poor public image on farmers who portray them as chicken killers, and say they weren’t consulted when the wire mesh fencing was put up.

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Arktouros

This one doesn’t make much sense.

The chances that gaming companies were going to register for gambling licenses was basically non-existent. Lets ignore the PR nightmare that companies would be somewhat giving legitimacy to the idea that loot boxes are gambling. Instead just the fact that Belgium is such a minor country that it was bound to be vastly easier to simply side step Belgium entirely on the matter.

The more likely reality is that people involved probably thought they were doing good. However as games like Black Desert already show there’s a dozen different ways to bypass the loot box laws by putting your gambling in the game itself. Basically bypassed before it was even put into place.

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Roger Melly

You can be almost certain once one EU country does this the rest will follow .

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Arktouros

Except multiple EU countries have already stated that they specifically won’t follow. There’s a whole split right now with what is and isn’t illegal in Belgium and Netherlands for example. In Belgium any lockbox is considered gambling. In Netherlands only lockboxes where you can cash out the items for RL $$ is considered gambling (IE: CS:GO skins but not Overwatch).

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The Black Parrot

As a Belgian… You know FLEGA is just a fansite/blog eh? This isn’t any official body of anything? lmao.

Clickbait much.

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Utakata

Hey, Josh Hawley is some backwoods Senator from Missouri. Why is he important here? Because he wants to ban loot boxes in the US too. Yet he has no official gaming capacity. But if people listen to him (like other US senators), he may actually spell trouble loot box centric games there. As FLEGA might be influential enough to spell trouble for the anti-loot box legislation in Belgium if enough of the right people listen to them, even though they’re some backwoods fansite/blog too…

…but if you don’t like it though, you don’t have to click it. Just saying.

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Arktouros

That Hawley law has some serious flaws to it.

I really liked the part where they labeled most Game Expansions as P2W (:

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Utakata

/le sigh

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Arktouros

It’s pretty impressive in the scope they covered at least, gotta give credit where credit is due, very hard to bypass around it. However in the process they ended up making any expansion that makes non-expansion content easier fall under the label pay2win and thus illegal.

On positive note it mandates that 2 years from activation it would trigger a study at the psychological affects of these things on people of all ages in all age types as well. So an actual scientific study would finally get done.

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McGuffn

So… ban it then do a study? That’s stupid. Even stupider is they’re admitting it upfront.

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Arktouros

The study part (Section 5) says the FTC has 2 years to do a study on P2W and Microtransactions for “audiences of all ages.” The report has to analyze what’s being utilized, the psychological effects of what’s being utilized, the effects on the gaming industry, and determine if all that induces compulsive purchases in minors.

So basically yes. Ban it first, then do a study on it to determine if it should be banned.

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IronSalamander8 .

Yeah. I despise loot boxes but as usual congress either overreacts and/or doesn’t really understand the issue. I love me some good game expansions!

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Arktouros

Again they were pretty surprisingly thorough in what they covered by getting both topics. The way they define pay2win makes games like Black Desert unable to just bake the RNG into the game and sell you solution because that falls under the way they define p2w with the bill.

Unfortunately that ended up also throwing game expansions under the bus as since they provide power creep that makes the base game content easier they would also be considered pay2win by the bill’s definition. They were trying to block the idea of games selling “DLC”s that were really just p2w boosts that bypass the bill but ended up catching what would be considered “normal” by us as well given the way it’s worded.

Of course all this, so far, only applies to children games. But how well that actually applies or is considered to apply is up for debate. Is BDO a kids game? Is WOW a kids game? Is Fortnite a kid’s game but Overwatch isn’t a kid’s game? Are we going to start seeing more grimdark art styles in gaming going forward so people can’t argue that they’re kids games and targeted at kids? It’s all pretty interesting.

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starbuck1771

I see both sides of the argument. However I see a stronger argument on the anti-loot box side. Why? They are selling loot boxes or keys to open said boxes for profit. In the end you may get crap items not worth what you paid and they don’t give the odds of receiving good items which violates many countries gambling laws including here in the USA. It is gambling because it is a game of chance that they profit off of. Another thing that goes against them is that if a game shuts down you lose every item you bought in said loot boxes which could be considered fraud because they sold you something they knew you would never be able to keep.

The point is loot box sales are walking a very fine line and the anti-loot box movement are just trying to protect the consumers from fraudulent practices done by companies like EA or Standing Stone Games.

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Danny Smith

“Hi there. I’m a pot. Now you may be wondering why i’m calling this kettle black. Its simple. I want more money from you dumb rubes and they are getting in the way, ain’t that fucked up?”

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kalech

lmao I bet they’re rankled. Must be so hard for them to not be allowed to take advantage of their customers.

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McGuffn

Nobody expects the Flemish Games Association!

“The public perception now is that a lot of politicians and people think that every video game is some form of gambling, and that is not really what is happening.”

I know I’m sitting here in the United States and can’t really speak to the nebulous
“public perception” in another country but I’m pretty sure this is a lie.

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starbuck1771

Correct the gambling comes in at the loot box level when there is real money involved because it is a game of chance just like a slot machine in a casino. The second they started selling loot boxes or keys to open loot boxes it officially became gambling.

zerohunt
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zerohunt

The developers had their damn chance to regulate. What was the result? A complete fuckshow of casino-like tactics completely cemented into all phone games and AAA developers trying to force it into all other games.

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Schmidt.Capela

Exactly. If you want to get the chance to self-regulate then you need to identify the issue and implement ways to mitigate it before it reaches a critical point that legislators can’t ignore anymore.