Battlefront & Overwatch's Loot Boxes Under Investigation In Belgium

Belgian website VTM is reporting that the country's Gaming Commission is currently taking a look at loot boxes in video games, with particular focus on EA's inclusion of them in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Blizzard's use in Overwatch.

Peter Naessens, General Director of the commission, says that the practice of buying the add-on boxes - where you don't know what you're paying for until you open it - may constitute gambling.

TIt's a particular concern for the Commission when the game is available for and marketed towards children, such as Overwatch and Battlefront 2 are (in Europe both titles have a PEGI rating of 12).

Naessens says loot box systems can be a particular danger to minors because of the societal pressure to spend more money to boost their strength. VTM reports that if loot boxes were indeed found to be a form of gambling then the Gaming Commission would need to provide a permit (it's illegal to operate a gambling business in Belgium without one).

An investigation could also lead to a fine of "up to hundreds of thousands of Euros" and the game being taken off shelves in Belgium. It would also presumably set a precedent that would affect any other publisher operating similar business practices.


Comments

    This is what the ESRB should've done, instead of just offering a pre-prepared statement from their lobbyists.

    Good! I'm less bothered by games that only offer cosmetics as opposed to gameplay advantage, but even then it's still gambling. These games are preying on people the same way that casinos do, except casinos are R18 venues while video games can be played by anyone. I feel bad for kids growing up in this kind of environment.

    No idea why they're targeting Overwatch's loot boxes since the contents of those are 100% cosmetic.

      Still a form of gambling with an intention to keep you addicted.

      Cause the average hardcore Overwatch player spends has spent between $500 to $1200 on lootboxes since the game released in something that is pure chance.

      Any game of chance is covered in legal definition in most Gambling & Competition laws across the planet.

      Most computer games with loot boxes are offering a chance for real money investment without compliance or permits to these laws... now the law makers are asking What are Loot Boxes really? A game of chance, a lottery, a comptition, gambling... the result could vary.

        Cause the average hardcore Overwatch player spends has spent between $500 to $1200 on lootboxes since the game released in something that is pure chance.

        Sorry, but can you please post a source on that? I know multiple players with hundreds of hours each and none have paid for loot boxes, let alone enough to put a deposit on a used car. I'd love to know where this random "$500-$1200" figure comes from.

        Do you have a legitimate source on that to back up that wide and far-reaching comment about $500-$1200 spending? I'd like to know who is offering that data and where/how they are sourcing it from Activision Blizzards sales data, as it is right now I don't believe that statement at all I have friends who have played nothing but Overwatch since its release and maybe spend $30-$60 if that so you'll have to provide a solid source.

      Want to know why EA tried the BFII shit? Because we sent a clear message that we're okay with Overwatch. It's opening the gates and it'll only get worse and worse, every little bit we let them move forward is a thousand more points they'll push.

      "Oh but it's only cosmetic", but it's also game content that you're being additionally charged for, with no real justification, only thinly veiled bullshit that we've been conditioned to swallow without being challenged, and any attempt to do so will have you facing the social justice mob that is the internet at large.

        Except you're not being charged for it unless you choose to buy them.

        You can earn them for free in game quite easily and often.

        Can you please explain your idea for a continued revenue model for games like Overwatch please? The original budget for the game is created and the game is produced according to that. It is then released and sells, earning the company profit. That's where game development would historically end (with the exception of balance patches).

        Remember, Overwatch gives a new character every quarter, new maps, new voice lines, new skins, new sprays, new animatics, etc. completely FREE. For everyone who bought the base game. You don't pay any extra, but you get all this extra stuff that wasn't included in the base game you bought.

        How do you propose funding these things?

        The alternatives include going back to the map packs fiasco where you split the player base with every map pack you sell or waiting and just releasing Overwatch 2 a year later.

        "Oh but it's only cosmetic", but it's also game content that you're being additionally charged for, with no real justification

        What? The justification is that the programmers creating all this new content need to eat, dude. You want them to work for free?

        Overwatch's lootbox system is incredibly fair seeing as all items can be bought with game credits earned easily, lootboxes themselves are easily earned and the contents are entirely cosmetic providing no additional advantage to anyone buying them.

        Again, if you can tell me a better way of continuing to fund development of games that doesn't involve splitting the player base I'm all ears. But it sounds like you're just entitled and want developers to work to give you things for free.

      I doubt any where near as many people would be upset with cosmetic DLC if you just bought it outright for 3-4 dollars per skin.

      Blizzard purposely made it so if you want a to purchase a particular skin you have to buy about 60 dollars worth of player icons you don't want and you still only have a CHANCE to get the skin.

      They don't deserve any sympathy for this kind of manipulative greed.

        Blizzard purposely made it so if you want a to purchase a particular skin you have to buy about 60 dollars worth of player icons you don't want and you still only have a CHANCE to get the skin.

        Or you purchase it with the credits you get just by playing the game. No one is making you spend real-world money on getting that sweet new Tracer skin. You can get it by saving credits and buying it in-game. It has literally no impact on gameplay at all so you're not at a disadvantage for not having it.

          I don't understand why you even mention that they don't affect gameplay, the point was that they know a large portion of their audience likes changing how their character looks and will pay for it, they know they would never pay 60 dollars for a skin up front but they know they can trick you into paying 1 dollar for a chance at the skin 60 times.

          The grind to get 3000 credits for an event skin is insane and not achievable during an event without purchasing boxes, they know a huge amount of their fans are collectors and they know that if they put time limits on events and have multiple events per year the collectors will pay out hundreds of dollars trying to keep up.

          Its just flat out greedy for a company as rich as Blizzard.

      Because your paying for something & don't know what your getting, It's effect on gameplay doesn't matter as your playing a slot machine, Wish overwatch defender would wake up & drop the " It's only cosmetic bs".

    The interesting thing is that Belguim is also the de facto capital of the Europian Union. This little investigation could not only set a precedent but also set EU policy.

    Wow this is fantastic news. I hope this becomes successful, because it should cause a chain reaction for other countries to react too

    Interesting how this plays out as I've always been confused as to why shops selling physical card game packs are not considered the same. It is a gambling 'chance' mechanic that some people have issue with control etc so not sure of the details as to why that's ok taking kids money and giving them all duplicate cards.

    For the record, EA can burn in hell for the shit they are pushing with BFII but it looks like they are first that are dumb enough to see how far they can push it and us gamers.

      Just to play devil's advocate, one point of difference is if you get a duplicate card in a card-game pack it is a physical item that you can then trade or sell to obtain something of worth.

        This.

        Physical cards - at least when i was younger - were all about swapping for ones you dont have (or one for multiples depending) and it fostered a sense of togetherness.

        These loot boxes are for people to gain an advantage over others - which isnt cool.
        But i can't swap the crap i dont want for stuff i do want. You're forced to keep buying and discarding the remainder.

        If football, pokemon, magic cards were like that, im sure they wouldn't last long.

      Apparently physical cards have to publish the drop rates etc and if you get a duplicate, at least you have something. I guess it's not gambling as you get something back, even if you have 20 of that card?

      With digital games, most of the time if a loot box gives you a duplicate you can't sell it for in game currency or anything, so you would have paid that money and not received anything which is more of a gamble?

        Except that you rarely ever really get 'nothing'. Duplicates in most games can be ground up into whatever dust/currency that's used to purchase other things in-game.

          And physical cards can be ground into dust and then... Oh wait, don't do that!

          It's a false economy. You give them money, they give you something you don't want, you swap for 10% of the "value" in in-game currency. You have just turned $10 into $1 of in-game currency equivalent.

    At the very least I'd like to see publishes forced to publish drop rates (worldwide, not just in certain countries), along with a handy little number showing the average number of boxes you should expect to open to get a particular item. That at least lets you know what you're in for if you want to go dumping money on it.

    Personally though, I see it as gambling and it should be labelled as such along with all the usual regulations.

      With all the big data publishers have on the multiplayer scene it is probably already being done in-house to keep track of buggy loots or something being too present in the game.
      After looking at allot of SWBF2 streams it does appear that the system will drop you into a match full of characters you don't have, so when the MVP's are shown it make you think that character is better (eg. a player without lando will be put into a match with lando's winning to entice them to drop out and open a create).

      On other notes in SWBF2 there isn't any setting in joining multiplayer on purpose. Notice that if you are rank1 you'll never be in a rank one only game, in fact your more likely to be used as fodder in someone else's rank 10 game to make them play more. On that note EA does track players who spend more cash, and will gladly feed up some rank 1's into their game to help them justify their purchase.
      The side effect is that as a rank1 your are more likely to by loot if you constantly have your a**e handed to you.

      As a rank1 your moeny is precious to EA so the smack-down can only last so long before they loose you (your loot money) as a player in SWBF1 after enough losses the game would look for a server with lower ranked players in the same way it would check for higher ranked ones for those winning too much.
      This is the equivalent of a pokie machine giving you a few bucks back so you don't walk away. As for SWBF2 your loot money is important but if you only ever loose you won't play, stats like kill/death ratio and 'alive' time are usually taken into account when choosing who you should be playing against.
      One thing to know if this is the case is if there are any options for the player to choose load-out restrictions, or rank restrictions when finding an online match. If there are no options then EA hold all the cards and you are being placed in the arena that makes you spend money.

      Time will tell as more players continue to give EA stats for them to use against you. If you are all for the multiplayer, keep an eye out on the results screens and take note of the gap between the bottom 90% and top 2%. For the first few games you join the gap should be large between players kill\death ratio (eg. #1 30K / 5D, #20 3K / 20D).
      If it feels like your not great and a loot create would solve the problems, its because your being played.

      Honestly, never pay physical money for a loot create. By all means enjoy the game, and the great single player component. But you'll never be number 1 and there will always be someone out there who'll spend more money or time on the game than you. Remember video games are for enjoyment not for gambling or addiction, if it isn't fun no amount of injected money will solve that.

      They really don't want us to know what the droprates are, when china tried to force Blizzard to show droprates they made it so you don't buy lootboxes with real money anymore instead you buy them with credits and you buy the credits with real money.

      Its just so dishonest its disgusting.

    This is a very good step being taken, the practices do need to be investigated. It may lead to regulations being imposed on publishers protecting consumers.

    Now please for the love of god, can we all just take a breath and calm down. All the negativity and hostility that some people resort to when controversy like this arises, is exhausting. Chill my gaming bros and sis's ✌️ :P

    Last edited 16/11/17 2:53 pm

    I'm personally in favour of any development that favours consumers in this arena. Transparency and honesty first - tell us the rates, etc.

    But preferably, just tell us the price to buy a thing, then let us buy the thing, rather than 'gambling' for it.

    Then, if it turns out that buying all the things is bullshit, it becomes easier to tell just how bullshit it is. It takes away the power of manipulation. Manipulation is a horrible fucking power.

    What is with traiding card games such as Pokemon?

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