Lootboxes have been a major controversy in Belgium for the last 18 months. This mostly stems from the government’s decision to categorize lootboxes as a form of gambling.
One of those hit by this development was Electronic Arts (EA) which sold lootboxes for its popular FIFA franchise in the country. The company has been fighting for months now to get the Belgium government to change their views but it seems to have finally caved in and stopped selling lootboxes in the country.
The decision to consider lootboxes as gambling is based around the idea that players do not know what is inside of the boxes when they buy them. This means that they are “gambling” when buying these lootboxes, hoping to get what they want.
When Belgium came down hard on lootboxes with new regulations, companies like Blizzard, Valve and 2K games stopped their sale of lootboxes immediately to meet the requirements of the law.
The only outlier was EA which continued to sell lootboxes. They got into trouble quickly by defying the new law as criminal investigations were launched against them in September 2018. They still persisted to sell lootboxes but it now seems that the pressure has finally forced EA to back down from its position.
EA stopped the sale of lootboxes from January 31 with Belgian players now unable to buy FUT coins with cash. These coins are used to purchase the FUT card packs, which is the FIFA version of lootboxes. Belgian players will still be able to play FIFA Ultimate Team and have access to the players that they earned previously. The main difference is that they will not be able to get any more card packs or lootboxes.
A Long Battle
EA has been fighting a long battle on the classification of lootboxes as gambling. The video game company has insisted that their games were developed to meet all lawful requirements around the world.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson pointed out that players received the same number of items in each pack and that these items could not be sold off in any form which was enough proof that they were not gambling.
In hopes of evading the ban, EA added the FUT card pack probabilities. This reveals the percentage chances of getting a certain type of card from the pack. Many thought this as a way to add transparency to the process and ensure a billion-dollar revenue stream remained open.
In a statement, EA said
While we are taking this action, we do not agree with Belgian authorities’ interpretation of the law, and we will continue to seek more clarity on the matter as we go forward. The impact of this change to FIFA Ultimate Team in Belgium is not material to our financial performance.
With lootboxes under fire, it will be interesting to see if other countries follow Belgium’s lead.