In 2018, the Belgian Gambling Commission found loot boxes to be a form of gambling and recommended criminally prosecuting developers and publishers who implement them in their games. However, a new study found that Belgium’s ban is not functionally enforced.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, a study by loot box expert Leon Y. Xiao found that the law has been unevenly and ineffectively implemented. The study claims that 82% of the top-grossing iPhone titles in Belgium have loot box implementation. He goes on to state that the ban gives parents and lawmakers a “false sense of security.” Furthermore, the study emphasizes that the technical measures taken to prevent the purchase of loot boxes in Belgium are easily circumvented by smart players. Xiao concludes by recommending a less strict but more carefully applied policy.
Belgium’s policy brought about some broad changes in the country. After talks with Belgian authorities, EA removed the virtual currency from FIFA titles in the country. Nintendo stopped supporting Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes to avoid prosecution or regulation. However, Xiao’s study argues that the ban allowed “non-compliant games to replace games that have been pulled from the domestic market by more socially responsible companies.”
Other countries have investigated or introduced loot box policies. Brazil opened an investigation into loot boxes last year. The UK recently encouraged the games industry to self-regulate after its own investigation. Big games like Overwatch 2 and Halo Infinite have abandoned loot box monetization, despite including them in their predecessors. Diablo Immortal sparked ongoing discussions about the connections between free monetization and gambling.
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