Update, November 22: Contrary to reports yesterday, the Belgian Gaming Commission has not declared loot boxes to be gambling.
The Belgian Gaming Commission is yet to come to a conclusion on the matter of whether or not in-game loot boxes constitute gambling. A mistranslation of a statement from Belgium's Minister for Justice, Koen Geens, may have been responsible for the confusion.
Here's everything wrong with the Battlefront II progression system.
Yesterday, we reported that the Belgian Gaming Commission had concluded that loot boxes did indeed constitute gambling. That information stemmed from a report from VTM News, who mistook a statement from the commission made as part of the launch of the investigation - that "The mixing of money and addiction is gambling" - as the committee's conclusion.
In fact, according to RBTF, that is definitely not the conclusion of the investigation. They contacted Etienne Marique, the chairman of the Gaming Commission, who "completely denies" that any conclusion has been reached. The investigation is ongoing.
Update, November 21: The Belgian Gaming Commission’s findings are in, and they’ve declared loot boxes to be gambling.
Last week, we reported that Belgium’s Gaming Commission - which regulates all gambling in the country - was investigating whether or not to call loot boxes gambling after the considerable controversy surrounding the release of Star Wars Battlefront II.
VTM News reports (through a rough Google translation) that the commission has declared “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling.”
What that means in the immediate future is unclear, but Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens says that they want to make prevent loot box style transactions from occuring in games at all. “But that takes time, because we have to go to Europe,” says Geens. “We will certainly try to ban it.”
Update, November 20: Lucasfilm say they support EA's decision to remove microtransactions from Star Wars Battlefront II.
After the revelation that Disney may have contributed to the decision to remove microtransactions from Battlefront II, as well as the fact that two national governments were investigating whether or not they counted as gambling, it's not too much of a surprise that Lucasfilm have weighed in on the argument.
In a statement issued to The Washington Post, a Lucasfilm spokesperson says "Star Wars has always been about the fans, and whether it's Battlefront or any other Star Wars experience, they come first. That's why we support EA's decision to temporarily remove in-game payments to address fan concerns."
That's not particularly surprising, as Lucasfilm would obviously be keen to protect their intellectual property. As, it would seem, are Disney; the Washington Post also claims that, according to the Wall Street Journal, the company's call to EA executives last week was to "was to express Disney executives’ unhappiness at how the outrage “reflected on their marquee property.”
Update, November 17: Dutch Authorities are investigating loot boxes to determine whether they constitute gambling.
The Dutch Gaming Authority are conducting an investigation into loot boxes to see whether they count as online gambling, which is currently illegal in The Netherlands.
The Gaming Authority is still in its research phase, and hence has not decided whether loot boxes constitute gambling. However, a spokesperson told Dutch news site NU that if they did determine that loot boxes constituted gambling, companies that included them would be "in violation [of Dutch law], which in the worst case can result in enforcement and a penalty for the provider."
Last month, research firm SuperData were commissioned by the Gaming Authority to investigate the link between online games and gambling, and found that 55% of UK 25-34 year-olds switch from gambling-style games or vitual item wagering (such as skin betting in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) to real-money gambling. 80% of those who switch in The Netherlands do so because playing with real money "is more exciting." You can read the full report here.
The Gaming Authority did not comment on any particular games. European rating organisation PEGI said they would wait to see what the Gaming Authority concluded, but are "looking at ways to better inform consumers about extra buying options in games."
Update, November 16: In response to the investigation currently underway by Belgian authorities, EA claim Battlefront 2's loot boxes do not constitute gambling.
EA say that the loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II "are not gambling." In a statement given to GameSpot, the company defend their microtransactions, saying they're part of a "fun and fair game experience."
The statement was given in response to the news that the Belgian Gaming Commission is investigating whether loot crates available for purchase in Battlefront II and Overwatch count as gambling. Blizzard are yet to comment on the issue, but EA say their crates don't count, despite the potential gameplay advantages they can offer.
The full statement reads: "Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game."
Original story, November 15: While all eyes are on the Reddit AMA going on with the Star Wars Battlefront II developers today, that’s not the only subject of interest for the game today. It seems one governmental organization is investigating whether the game’s loot box system should be classified as gambling.
According to VTM News, the Belgian Gaming Commission - which regulates all gambling in the country - is currently investigating whether or not loot crates in the game should be categorized as gambling.
The commission’s director, Peter Naessens, says that if your ability to succeed in the game is dependent on random outcomes - in this case, the contents of loot boxes - then the commission will have to consider it a game of chance. “If there is a game of chance,” says Naessens, “it is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission.”
Assuming the commission finds that the loot box system is indeed a game of chance, EA would potentially be forced to pay fines up to hundreds of thousands of euros, or see the game removed from shelves. Overwatch is also part of the investigation, but based on the commission's specification of in-game performance as a factor, its cosmetic options seem less likely to come under fire.