While some politicians are still questioning if violent video games make people more violent (several scientific studies have already disproven this idea), others are trying to determine something slightly more important: are loot boxes gambling? Many politicians seem to think so, and their numbers grow every day.
The Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens is the latest politician to declare loot boxes a form of gambling. He reached this decision after the Belgian Gaming Commission investigated four different games: Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The Commission examined each game and, unsurprisingly, found that the loot boxes in FIFA 18, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch fit all their criteria for gambling. But, in an ironic twist, the Gaming Commission did not conclude that the loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II, the game that served as the impetus for the investigation, were a form of gambling; apparently EA’s recent changes to Battlefront II’s loot boxes really were all they were cracked up to be.
Because of the investigation, Geens found FIFA 18, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch to be in violation of Belgium’s gambling legislation. He now demands that the games’ publishers remove loot boxes. If the publishers don’t, they could potentially be imprisoned for up to five years and fined up to 800,000 euros (approximately $973,880). However, punishments tend to be doubled when minors are involved, and since plenty of children play games like Overwatch and FIFA 18, the publishers could easily find themselves with up to ten years of jail time and 1,600,000 euros ($1,947,600) worth of fines.
Geens isn’t blindly placing blame, though. He wants to meet with the Gaming Commission, the developers, and the publishers of the games to determine “who should take responsibility where.” Geens’ primary concern is to “ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game,” which implies he doesn’t want to shut down games like FIFA 18 and Overwatch, just ensure they don’t include any form of gambling.
While Belgium’s decision might not signify the death knell for loot boxes, it clearly demonstrates that more and more people in positions of power are willing to take action against a practice that is considered by many gamers to be anti-consumer.