Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) is the latest group of gaming regulators to decide that video game loot boxes are, indeed, a form of gambling. In a report released yesterday, the BGC declared that loot boxes must be removed from video games sold in the country. Video game makers who are found in violation of the new ruling could be facing serious fines.
Loot boxes, for those who aren’t up on the controversy surrounding games like Star Wars Battlefronts 2, are a means for video game makers to distribute items players want, like unique weapons or character costumes, while generating revenue. Players pay a small amount of money for the loot boxes and receive a randomly drawn prize. The prize could be something quite valuable that could be sold on the aftermarket, or it could be something quite common that the player already owns.
If you’re thinking that this sounds more like a game of chance than a game of skill, you’re not alone. Gaming regulators across Europe and North America have been taking a very hard look at the loot box phenomenon and many of them are coming to the same conclusion as Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens who is quoted in the report, as reported on by PC Gamer, as saying:
Mixing games and gaming [gambling], especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health. We have already taken numerous measures to protect both minors and adults against the influence of, among other things, gambling advertising. That is why we must also ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a videogame.
Video game makers have shot back at critics who say loot boxes constitute gambling by saying that every loot box contains something of value. (Whether that item is actually valuable to the player is another matter, entirely.)
Though they haven’t set a timeline, the BGC says that video game makers who are not in compliance with the new anti-loot box ruling could be facing penalties of up to €800,000 ($974,000 USD) and five years in prison.