Update, April 20: The Dutch Gambling Authority wants EU-wide lootbox regulation.
Following yesterday’s announcement that lootbox mechanics in certain games contravene the country’s gambling laws, The Netherlands Gaming Authority says it wants to “work together and act together” to achieve joint regulations across the European Union.
Desire, competition, or addiction – why do we buy loot boxes?
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, a spokesperson from the NGA said “every European regulator has its own laws and regulations,” but the the Authority now wants to work with other nations to set a precendent.
Spokesperson Panji Oudsen referenced the studies currently being conducted by other European countries, such as Belgium, and says that the NGA’s ruling “could certainly influence rulings that are due to come out.” Oudsen also saud “I do know that [the NGA] are really pushing to the EU and trying to get in touch with all the different authorities in EU member states to get one blanket precedent so the whole EU has the same ruling.”
The introduction of an EU-wide ban on certain forms of mincrotransactions would have a far more significant impact on current practice than that of individual countries. Together, Belgium and The Netherlands have a population of around 30 million, while Europe as a whole has a total population of nearly 750 million – a potential audience that few Western developers could afford to do without.
Original, April 19:The Dutch Gambling Authority have given game developers eight weeks to fix loot boxes after they found were in violation of gambling laws.
The Dutch Gambling authority’s investigation into in-game loot boxes has found that four of ten games examined violate gambling laws (via NOS).
The investigation found that these four games award loot box prizes which can be sold via third-party websites for real money. Hence, because they can provide a real-world return, the authority have concluded they violate gambling rules.
The gambling authority did not reveal which games they had identified as using gambling mechanics. However, any games which include items – gained from a loot box – that can be sold on third-party sites for real-world value are violating the laws. As NOS pointed out, this means PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, FIFA 18, Dota 2, and Rocket League could be in the firing line.
“They are designed as gambling games are designed, with the feeling that you have almost won,” Marja Appelman, director of the Dutch Gambling Authority said in a statement. “There are all sorts of sound effects and visual effects when you open such a loot box, so you have a tendency to play through and through.”
Developers of the four games in violation of these laws have been given eight weeks to adjust their loot boxes to meet guidelines. If changes are not made by this point, then the Dutch Gambling Authority can impose fines or even prohibit the sale of the games.
Though the other six games investigated do not include loot box prizes which can be sold on a third-party site, the gambling authority likened loot boxes to a roulette wheel or fruit-machine and emphasised the potential danger to children.
“I call on all game companies not to make loot boxes accessible to children anymore and to remove addictive elements,” Appelman said.