Belgium makes ‘loot boxes’ illegal in games like FIFA and Overwatch

Loot boxes in gaming have been a controversial subject for a while, but it wasn’t until last year’s Star Wars Battlefront II that they exploded into mainstream awareness.

Basically, loot boxes are digital crates of in-game items that can be bought for real-world cash.

Sometimes they can contain useful upgrades and sometimes they can just be filled with cosmetic items.

But when you’re locked in epic battles with hundreds of other players, the temptation to shell out a couple of quid in the hope of gaining an advantage can be strong.

Many have called this a form of gambling and now the Belgium government has officially decided that’s the case.

A statement from the Belgian Minister of Justice, Koen Geens explains that games like Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, FIFA 18 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (which contain loot boxes) all fall under gambling law.

Unless the loot boxes are removed, the developers could face fines of up to 800,000 euros and up to five years in jail.

The Belgian Gaming Commission use four parameters to decide if loot boxes constitute gambling: if there was a game element that allowed bets to be placed, with a possible profit or loss, where chance played a roll in the result.

What makes the loot box controversy so concerning is that many of these games are played by youngsters who may be unknowingly getting hooked on the transactions.

"Paying loot boxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of skill," Gaming Commission Director Peter Naessens added in a statement.

"Players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling are applied."

In the most famous case, the Star Wars Battlefront II development team made a dramatic U-turn days before the game’s release and dropped support for in-game payments for the loot boxes which must now be earned with in-game credit.

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