A new report from loot box researcher Leon Y. Xiao states that Belgium’s loot box laws banning the sale of the randomised microtransaction crates in games has not been properly enforced, with a majority of successful games among those available in the European country still implementing the systems.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, the study, published by Xiao on July 28, found that 82 of the 100 highest-grossing Belgian iPhone games in May 2022 contained loot box features. This is despite a recommendation by the Belgian Gaming Commission in 2018 for criminal prosecution over the use of illegal loot boxes.
Xiao’s report says that the law has been circumvented easily by a number of different measures. As an example, the report states that in the case of Roblox, its publisher “did not explicitly require that user-generated loot boxes be blocked from purchase in Belgium.”
These laws have caused some developers to remove loot boxes from their titles in Belgium, including EA’s FIFA series, Valve’s Dota 2 and CS:GO, and Psyonix’s Rocket League. Among the most notable of the recently affected games is Diablo Immortal, with Activision Blizzard not releasing its mobile and PC crossover RPG game in either Belgium or the Netherlands after concern around its loot box-like elder rifts system.
The study emphasised the “negative consequences” of the ban not being enforced, such as creating a false sense of security. Xiao says that “the Belgian Gaming Commission gave video game consumers (including children and parents of young players) the false impression that Belgian players are now safe from loot boxes,” when they are still widely available for purchase.
The report also criticises the commission’s reporting, saying, “it has not monitored whether its ‘ban’ has been effective.” In addition, it notes that this has caused increased revenue to “non-compliant companies” whose games have been allowed “to replace games that have been removed from the national market by more socially responsible companies.”
It was recently reported that Diablo Immortal microtransactions have raised over $100 million in player spending on mobile versions alone since the game was released. A recent report by the Norwegian Consumer Council says players are “manipulated” to spend money by loot boxes in games such as FIFA 22. Meanwhile, the UK government is considering loot box legislation aimed at protecting children from such monetisation models.