Last week, the country of Belgium used their gaming commission to look into whether games like Overwatch and Star Wars: Battlefront II should be classified as gambling. This week, the commission has declared that, within the borders of Belgium, lootboxes count as games of chance, and they hope to have them declared as such throughout Europe.
VTM News, the source for the original story, reported the news today. The Google translation isn’t perfect, but the spirit comes through.
“The mixing of money and addiction is gambling,” Belgium’s gaming commission stated.
Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens also took part in the announcement. “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
Belgium has said they wish to take this to Europe as a whole, which could be a big problem for game publishers who have been making lootboxes and microtransactions a core part of games. Redefining the games as gambling throughout all of Europe could, in theory, cost publishers millions of euros in fines, cause the games to be pulled from normal retail shelves, and generally strain their ability to sell in the region.
It remains to be seen how the industry will react to this.
The speed in which this happened is surprising, but momentum has been building for some time. The problems for publishers are innumerable if this keeps going and it might be best for them to volunteer for a solution before regulation really squeezes them.