While many trends have cropped up in gaming recently, 2017 has cemented itself as the year of the loot box. So much so that according to VTM News, the Belgian Gaming Commission has launched an investigation into Star Wars: Battlefront II and Overwatch, to determine if loot boxes constitute gambling.
"If there is a game of chance, it is not possible without a permit from the Gaming Commission,” Belgian Gaming Commission director Peter Naessens said (via PCGamesN). If the investigation deems loot crates to be a game of chance, EA and Blizzard could face “hundreds of thousands of Euros” in fines. It’s also possible that their games would be removed from shelves in Belgium.
As GameSpot points out, it’s unclear if a loot box’s implementation will affect the ruling, Overwatch’s loot boxes are purely cosmetic, while Battlefront II’s offer gameplay advantages.
"Games of chance cannot be compared to any other kind of economic services," reads the commission’s charter. "They may cause people to become addicted to gambling and cause them to lose a great deal of money. For this reason, a number of protective measures have been implemented to protect players against these sorts of potential risks."
Both EA and Blizzard have yet to comment.
America’s Entertainment Software Rating Board – which isn’t a government agency – weighed in on the issue in October. They concluded that loot boxes don’t constitute gambling. "While there's an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don't want)," said a spokesperson to Kotaku. "We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you'll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you've had your eye on for a while. But other times you'll end up with a pack of cards you already have."