Blizzard won’t launch Diablo Immortal on mobile or PC in Belgium or the Netherlands, citing “the current operating conditions in these countries.”
The story was first reported by Dutch site Tweakers, who confirmed with the comms manager of Activision-Blizzard Benelux that the game would not launch locally. The comms manager Tweakers spoke to would not elaborate further than the quote above.
The Belgian Gaming Commission famously banned video game loot box mechanics in 2018, with the rationale that, if they can be purchased with real money in exchange for a game of chance, then they violate the nation’s gambling laws. Diablo Immortal is a mobile game and likely packed to bursting with loot boxes as a means of post-launch monetisation. Since Blizzard can’t monetise the game in Belgium, it has chosen not to launch it there.
What’s surprising is the decision to pull the game from the Netherlands. The Dutch Gaming Commission takes a different view of loot boxes than that of Belgium. Under Dutch law, loot boxes do not violate gambling laws provided the content awarded holds some economic value. To clarify: the way the Dutch see it, you should be able to trade anything you get out of a loot box for real money. Because you presumably can’t do that in Diablo Immortal, Blizzard won’t launch the game in the Netherlands either.
NME noted a support ticket on Blizzard’s forum that indicated the same.
“Unfortunately players in the Netherlands and Belgium will not be able to install Diablo Immortal due to the countries’ gambling restrictions,” reads the post from a Blizzard gamemaster. “The loot boxes in the game are against the law in your country.
“If you manage to run the game, I cannot guarantee that you will not be banned for it. What I can say is that in similar situations in the past where RNG loot boxes were against the law in certain countries, we did not ban any players for it, but I cannot give you a guarantee that you will not be banned. If you do manage to play the game on PC and mobile, as long as you use the same account on both, the cross-save should still work as intended.”
None of this affects the game’s upcoming launch in Australia (or any other territory where loot boxes are legal). Our parliament has pinged loot boxes before but decided not to enforce any regulation around them. But it does provide an interesting insight into how major publishers view monetisation, and how enmeshed into the design of certain titles it has become. Quite apart from the fact that it wouldn’t be allowed to make any money on the game in Belgium and the Netherlands, Blizzard likely couldn’t remove loot box mechanics from Diablo Immortal to satisfy local regulations if it wanted to.
It makes you wonder if Australia pulled the pin on loot boxes and other predatory monetisation, would we get the same treatment? Consider that your fun thought experiment for the day.
A final note: weirdly nice to write about regular old loot box evil again? After all the nonsense intrusions of NFTs and the nascent blockchain into gaming over the last few months, complaining about loot boxes again was like slipping on a comfy pair of shoes (just $2 per wear, per shoe. Range of designs, no refunds, legendary tier Jordans have a drop rate of 1%).