Loot boxes being withdrawn from games in Europe after legal changes
After the fallout from last year’s
Star Wars loot box controversy and subsequent outrage from various governments, formal legal changes are starting to appear and affect titles that have in-game purchases.
New laws in Belgium and the Netherlands classify paid loot boxes with randomised content inside of them as gambling, as they involve a game of chance. So far Overwatch and NBA 2K have removed the microtransactions in these countries, but other games such as FIFA have yet to comply as they’re insisting their card packs don’t count as gambling. Those that don’t comply could face a fine of 800,000 euros and a five-year prison sentence – which seems incredibly harsh.
Also, videogames rating body PEGI is introducing a new symbol to be placed on all physical games across Europe to mark out any game that has an in-game purchase, be that microtransactions or DLC. The hope is that people seeing the credit card-like symbol will be more aware that extra money might be involved after buying the game. Increasing awareness feels like a step in the right direction.
While Europe is making moves to address the issue, there’s been no movement in the US despite Hawaii raising bills to prevent those under the age of 21 from buying games that include loot boxes. While the proposed legislation was initiated it has since been quietly forgotten after failing to meet a deadline.
Hopefully, in time, a better solution that falls somewhere between the harshness of a full ban and the soft touch of a tiny symbol can be found, but that will probably take longer while gamers and developers alike decide where the line between a small, paidfor bonus and gambling lies. We’ll cover further developments in future issues of OXM.
RIGHT EA is adamant that the card packs in FIFA don’t count as gambling.