After micro-transactions, loot boxes, and in-game currencies reached critical mass this year, with several 'AAA' titles integrating these elements into its gameplay mechanics, gamers and critics alike have become wary of the legality of these practices. So far, the ESRB has concluded that loot boxes do not constitute gambling, with the UK parliament deciding much the same. However, Belgium's gambling authority has taken games like Overwatch and Star Wars: Battlefront II to task, investigating claims that its 'loot mechanics' unfairly target the most vulnerable.
According to the Belgium gambling authority, in-game loot crates do in fact constitute a form of gambling since it relies on 'a game of chance'. When an individual needs to purchase something without knowing what they might get, it could encourage people to spend thousands of dollars to get something they really need or want, without realizing it. Fan site, Star Wars Gaming already did the calculations as to how much money - or time - a player had to invest in the latest Battlefront title to unlock everything, with it tallying up to a massive $2,100, or over 4,500 hours.
Chancellor's Commission Director Peter Naessens told VTM Nieuws that children could be put under social pressure to spend considerable amounts of money, and is according to him a clear form of gambling. EA, on the other hand, told Gamespot that it disputed these claims:
"Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player's ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game."
At the time of publishing, Activision Blizzard has not commented on the story, however, the developer didn't spare a moment lambasting its rival over the inclusion of loot crates in Star Wars: Battlefront II, even though Overwatch is equally guilty of such practices. EA has scaled back microtransactions in its latest title to some extent after it caused a significant backlash on Reddit earlier this week.
If the Belgium authorities do decide that loot crates in games like Battlefront II and Overwatch constituted gambling, developers will have to get permits to launch titles in markets governed by these laws. In addition to this, it could affect the way the ESRB rates these games in the future, as titles with gambling with 'real world currency' always get a mature rating.
Source: VTM Nieuws (Dutch)
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