It seems EA has decided not to comply with Belgian law regarding the sale of loot boxes in the country, and officials there are taking the company to court. A series of other major titles from Overwatch to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have restricted loot box purchases for players in Belgium, and EA is the last major player named by regulators yet to comply.
FIFA 18 and 19 are the specific titles cited here, with the Ultimate Team mode’s randomized card packs as the specific loot box mechanic being targeted. Card packs are still available for purchase in last year’s game, and there’s no indication that this year’s title will be any different.
A variety of Dutch outlets including Metro and Nieuwsblad reported earlier today that the Belgian Gaming Commission is now seeking legal action against EA. We’re dealing with the vagaries of Google Translate here, but broadly it appears that the commission is in currently contact with the Brussels public prosecutor’s office. Prosecutors will investigate to decide whether to pursue legal action against EA, and in the meantime the publisher has been given documents detailing the current situation.
An EA representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It’s important to note that there are no new laws in Belgium targeting loot boxes. Instead, the Belgian Gaming Commission has decided that loot boxes are a form of gambling covered under existing law – a ruling that has yet to be tested in court. It’s possible that judges could rule that loot boxes are not legally gambling, similar to the decision made by the UK Gambling Commission.
Loosely translated, Belgian Gaming Commission general director Peter Naessens tells Nieuwsblad that if the court rules in favour of EA, “we will advocate revising the gambling law so that we can tackle the loot boxes.”
Over the past few months in Belgium, loot box purchases have been removed from Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and NBA 2K19 – though the latter was especially notable as publisher 2K asked fans to contact government representatives to show support for loot boxes. (Players were not eager to do so.)
EA’s only apparent move in the wake of the loot box controversy has been to officially disclose drop rates for Ultimate Team packs. In an earnings call earlier this year, CEO Andrew Wilson said that “we don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling.” Though most of the companies cited by the Belgian Gaming Commission have said they disagree with the organization’s interpretation of the law, EA is the only one that has failed to comply.