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Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal (arstechnica.com) 176

The Belgian Gaming Commission has reviewed several big video games and found that randomized loot boxes in at least three of the titles count as "games of chance," and publishers could therefore be subject to fines and prison sentences under the country's gaming legislation. Ars Technica reports: A statement by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens (machine translation) identifies loot boxes in Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive as meeting the criteria for that "game of chance" definition: i.e., "there is a game element [where] a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game." The Commission also looked at Star Wars: Battlefront II and determined that the recent changes EA made to the game means it "no longer technically forms a game of chance." Beyond that simple definition, the Gaming Commission expressed concern over games that draw in players with an "emotional profit forecast" of randomized goods, where players "buy an advantage with real money without knowing what benefit it would be." The fact that these games don't disclose the odds of receiving specific in-game items is also worrisome, the Commission said. The three games noted above must remove their loot boxes or be in criminal violation of the country's gaming legislation, Geens writes. That law carries penalties of up to 800,000EU (~$973,680) and five years in prison, which can be doubled if "minors are involved." But Geens says he wants to start a "dialogue" with loot box providers to "see who should take responsibility where."
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Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal

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  • Thank god (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    absolutely agree, if you can't know what you're getting, it's a gamble. This is the stupidest trend in gaming that needs to end.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      RIP Magic The Gathering in Belgium. I mean, you buy a pack of random cards -- some have value some don't. And CHILDREN play this game. Gambling must stop! Think of the #CHILDREN!

    • I just ran into Renee Descartes and he mentioned to me that you can't know anything.

      So maybe everything should be illegal?
    • i'm gonna take the side of belgopol for once ... even if it's what about the children in this case ... its a kick back at marketeering and im glad it took them only ten years to get to the principle of loot boxes for money lol wtg GEENS, i'll give you an upvote on steemit o wait ... thats gonna take another 20 years, i guess well, kick some marketeer ass, but please don't forget to educate the plebs you protect in your enlightedness didnt say i was your friend there mutual self intrest is the greate
  • Here's hoping they include the scum bags at Psyonix (Rocket League).

    • by impos ( 805511 )

      Hmmm I've played 1000+ hours of Rocket League, and I've never once needed to buy a loot box. Nothing in them makes it easier to win. They are purely cosmetic.

      Now, loot boxes that make your game easier, or give you advantages, I'm ALL for getting rid of those.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        You, I presume are an adult. The problem is they targeted minors in a manipulative fashion to scam them out of their pocket money, it could not be worse, except if they mugged passing prams for their milk bottle. It is really lame and socially ugly and custodial sentences should be appropriate, not long ones, just 90 days or so. The fine of course should be triple the estimated income.

        • The problem is they targeted minors in a manipulative fashion to scam them out of their pocket money

          You can get a credit card as a minor? If not, how do they accept cash over the internet?

          • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

            You certainly needed a credit card attached to an account to purchase games from the App Store.
            If they don't have one, it's probably their parents'.
            I'm pretty sure minors can have credit cards if their parents/guardian co-signs.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That isn't where the regulation has to be to be effective.

        Gambling is addictive and young people aren't able to evaluate the cost/reward as well as adults. That is why gambling is regulated.
        If the award gives you and advantage or if it is cosmetic only doesn't have an impact on the addictiveness.

        A law to regulate lootboxes has to be phrased so that games where you can pay to "roll the dice" should have an age limit/be regulated as gambling.
        What the reward is is irrelevant since the addiction comes from the

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That alone wouldn't protect Rocket League. Note that Overwatch is one of the 3 that were definitely slammed as having illegal gambling. From what I understand all of the lootbox crap in Overwatch is also purely cosmetic.

      • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        They are purely cosmetic.

        Irrelevant. I don't understand why so many people don't understand this. Exchanging real money to give you a pull on the slot machine, even if the slot machine only spits out shitty hats, is still gambling.

  • Mmm Hmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
    'cause Lotto Belgium [thelotter.com] is a game of skill.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      U need a permit for gambling dumbass

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I do so I tried this and won. Now I have 3 dumbasses

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The lotto isn't a video game.

      Or they could still have their gambling boxes if they get licensed.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      that doesn't cater to kids....
    • Re:Mmm Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by gravewax ( 4772409 ) on Thursday April 26, 2018 @12:43AM (#56504533)
      gambling isn't illegal, running a gambling business without a license to do so is.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      and just like the lotto I am sure the game makers can apply to get a gambling license, though I would suspect some of the restrictions and regulations involved like not selling to kids may make them baulk at the idea.
    • How often have the RNGs been independently audited in FIFA 2018? What are the complete odds of any output? Can children buy them? Are the licensed by the state?

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      'cause Lotto Belgium [thelotter.com] is a game of skill.

      They have a permit and pay a shitload of taxes. Also they require the player to verify that they are 18 or over.

  • What about monsters that occasionally drop a rare item? What if those monsters occur as part of paid downloadable content? What if the monster is not that hard to kill?
    • unless you have to rebuy that content each time you want a chance at that loot then there is no problem. There is no slippery slope here, Belgium aren't even unique in what they are doing. Really it isn't that complex, gambling is a monetary transaction in exchange for a "chance" at profit, be that money, goods or virtual items.
      • Hmm, you have to send these guys money every month just to play the game. So we spend real money, and have a chance of getting a really "high value" piece of loot.

        So, every MMORPG should qualify as gambling by that definition. Especially the ones that allow free-to-play options (such as an introductory ftp, which restricts what internal content is available till you start paying for the subscription)....

        • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

          Not the same thing, even with your stretched logic.

          The monthly fee is a subscription for access to the server. The loot drop is tied to a player activity based event, influenced by player skill in the group. So you'd have to be really deluded or stupid to think that they are the same thing at all.

    • No it's not a slippery slope: the fact it's "on a computer" makes no difference. There's a coninuous line between gambling and not and you can always make slight tweaks to make it more or less like gambling.

      This has not prevented gambling from being regulated now or in the past. This is in fact the system working as intended. Gambline is regulated, but somone has to provide some judgement as to whether or not something close to the line is in fact gambling.

      That's why judges exist.

    • You're right, that there is a line that needs to be drawn. However, I this seems like a reasonable place to draw it. I don't see why it would lead to what you stated.

      Monster drops aren't purchased, and even monster encounters that are part of a paid game aren't purchased like spins on a slot machine. But loot boxes are. They're pay per spin.

    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      The definition of a "loot box" is simple. Its something where you pay real world money to a finite number of in-game items and where you do not have a way to know in advance what you are getting for your money.

      If you know in advance what you are getting before you pay money, its not a loot box. (regardless of how many items you get for your money) If you pay a single price to get access to the item and then never need to pay any more money again (even if the chance to pick up the item is random), its not a

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @11:06PM (#56504259) Homepage

    I demand compensation. They can start by giving me all the loot, and maybe a few free chicken dinners.

  • Anyone know what the status of Kinder Surprise are in Belgium...?

    • If, say, 1 out of 100,000 Kinder Surprise eggs had a toy worth quite a bit more than what was paid for the Kinder Surprise, then its gambling.
      If the Kinder Surprise shoots out stars and streamers every time they open, with greater fanfare depending on rarity of item, then they are using psychological manipulation to get you to buy more. If they give out a few Kinder Surprises marketed heavily to children to get them addicted to the positive feedback loop and giving false hopes that the 1 in 100,000 prize wi

      • I am more curious in what will happen to collectible card games.

        Technically these are gambling too: pay for a small chance to get a rare card with a high monetary value. But are people buying decks of cards just to play the game or start a collection? If there isn't enough pressure to keep buying packs, a judge might let it pass. However if people rush out and buy 5 more and 5 more again when the deck they got doesn't have a rare, like those idiots in "Charlie and the chocolate factory", it's a different matter. That golden ticket scheme would definitely be classed

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        No, it is not... because you are not paying for the toy inside of it. You are paying only for the chocolate egg that the toy comes inside of, and the value of the egg is a known and fixed value. The toy is then considered a free gift that comes with the treat, designed to motivate people to buy them.

        CCG's with randomized packs are a bit more interesting, because I'm not sure if there's a known and fixed value that can be associated with them.

        • No, it is not... because you are not paying for the toy inside of it. You are paying only for the chocolate egg that the toy comes inside of, and the value of the egg is a known and fixed value. The toy is then considered a free gift that comes with the treat, designed to motivate people to buy them.

          I doubt that argument would work. Once there's a 1-in-100,000 chance of getting something valuable inside the egg, people will start paying for the chance to get the valuable thing regardless of the chocolate.

          The reason it isn't gambling is that all of the toys have the same value, so it doesn't really matter which one you get.

  • I'm happy and sad. Obviously obvious decision is obvious. Yay. Sad that that derp isn't obvious.
  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Thursday April 26, 2018 @12:07AM (#56504431)
    My son buys my daughter loot boxes for her birthday and she opens them in hopes of getting cosmetic enhancements in Overwatch.

    I would not be overly upset if the thing she wanted could be outright purchased. I'd even bless it as knowing that she would get what she paid for. But last year, she got loot boxes and every one of them had something she already had. The result being that the money was entirely wasted.

    My son and daughter stood by the computer while he prayed his baby sister would get what she'd wanted for so long. And while she was so happy he bought her the loot boxes, he was so disappointed that he wasted his allowance.

    Loot boxes are shit. If you want to sell loot boxes, you shouldn't be able to put anything in them you can't outright buy in a store as well.

    P.S. - I stopped spending an average of $800 a year on games when these shenanigans came in.
    • I guess you can takeaway a positive life lesson for both your kids: gambling is a fool's bet, because it always favors the house in the long run.

      I have to say, the exploitative nature of loot boxes in some games make me embarrassed to be a professional game developer. At least with creeps like Zynga, I could sort of pretend they weren't "real" developers making AAA games. I'm all for sale of cosmetic goods and fun consumables to enhance the game, and to allow people to voluntarily support an otherwise fre

      • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday April 26, 2018 @05:40AM (#56505253)

        gambling is a fool's bet, because it always favors the house in the long run.

        There are games against the house that fit that bill (e..g slot machines.) There are games against other players (with a house percentage) where the players as a whole lose, but you can win consistently (e.g. poker). However, loot boxes cost the house nothing regardless of payout. There''s no reason they cannot be a "winning" bet.

        my feelings are a bit conflicted when it comes to government intervention here, because that opens the door to more regulation

        Except here the regulations already existed. This is just applying them to game companies trying to to avoid the regs. with the "but it's on a computer' excuse." But yeah, regulations sometimes go too far. That's when democracies change the laws.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      It's just the latest in a long line of shenanigans including,

      Multiple levels of DRM and online only for single player games.
      Pre-order bonuses.
      DLCs (I'm on the fence about mission DLCs)
      Day-1 DLCs
      Cosmetic DLCs
      Weapon DLCs
      DLC to allow you to buy save slots (yes really)
      Gold, Platinum editions
      In-game 'micro-transactions' That are anything buy 'micro'
      Selling the cosmetic Items, Remember elder scrolls oblivion and all of the different costumes? - well that was before this 'cosmetic items' ****fest started.
      Cosmetic

    • Well, no. Back then, if you got duplicates in an Overwatch loot box, you got credits which could then be spent buying the cosmetics you wanted (although you didn't get enough credits from one duplicate to buy one cosmetic, they did add up). Overwatch loot boxes no longer give duplicates.

  • "Belgium Declares Video Game Loot Boxes Gambling and Therefore Illegal ", no it didn't. It declared loot boxes purchased for money as illegal gambling. You can still have lootboxes you just can't be selling them for random chances at loot.
  • Packs of trading cards are random and, until bought, you don't know what you're buying. Somewhere a clear line of demarcation needs to be drawn.

    • Fuck Pokemon.

      That's why I used to purchase non-official card sets (unfortunately the kids are old enough to be able to see the difference now). Also about 10% of the real-thing price (which are stupid expensive).

    • CCG and sports cards are pretty much the definition of gambling if cards have different values for the same occurrence - In MTG all Rare cards have the same occurence, but they have vastly different values. This means boosters have different values, and gamble a fixed amount.

      Worst case, it's a gray area, but clearly, we can't deny it's pretty similar.

    • Packs of trading cards are random and, until bought, you don't know what you're buying. Somewhere a clear line of demarcation needs to be drawn.

      No, it doesn't. That's why we have courts, where rational people can decide these things. We look at situations and decide if it's detrimental to society. I haven't heard of anyone crying about the injustice of trading cards. I think we're good there.

  • I mean, if genetics isn't a game of chance, then what is?

  • Therefore Belgium is stopping it. Have fun over there. I hear you have until 2030, better live it up while you can.
  • If you buy a sandwich it might taste awful or it might taste awesome.

    Gambling !!

    Now someone owes me a million euros.
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