Last week we reported that the Belgium government were investigating the stratospheric rise of loot boxes, and its effects on gamers playing titles such as Overwatch, and the recently launched Star Wars: Battlefront II. The Gaming Commission has officially concluded their investigation and aims to put an end to these practices - in Europe at least.
According to a report in VTM Nieuws, the ruling by the Commission concluded that loot boxes constituted a form of gambling and that they were dangerous in the hands of minors and people with addiction problems. The Belgium Minister of Justice, Koen Geens jumped into the fray as well, pointing out that "Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age is dangerous for the mental health of the child".
The Commission aims to ban these in-game transactions, in the case where the buyer does not know exactly what they might get once it 'unlocks'. This follows on a report that the state of Hawaii is also looking into legislation to ban this form of micro-transaction. Since Belgium forms part of the European Union, the process could take some time, but Geens pointed out that it will 'certainly try to ban [them]'.
The loot box controversy took on a life of its own this year after several AAA games implemented them, including Assassin's Creed: Origins, Forza Motorsport 7, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. However, after appearing in Star Wars: Battlefront II, it caused enough backlash for countries like Belgium to investigate. However, not everyone agrees that micro-transactions are dangerous, with KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Evan Wingren noting that gamers were simply 'overreacting'.
If loot boxes were found to be a form of gambling, this could have a serious impact as to how games are marketed to the general public. This is due to the fact that the ESRB (an American self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings to consumer video games) - which already concluded that loot boxes were not a form of gambling - always rates titles with gambling for 'Adults Only'.
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