Belgium says loot boxes are gambling, wants them banned in Europe

Well this could change things!!

Last week, Belgium’s Gaming Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into whether the loot boxes available for purchase in games like Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2 constitute a form of gambling. Today, VTM News reported that the ruling is in, and the answer is yes.

Full article here though it doesn’t say much more. But if its pushed, it could change a lot of things regarding ingame purchases.

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Well done Belgium. You’ve just region locked your games.

it’s a dangerous precedent. on the back of it stuff like packs of stickers also become gambling; they’re not at present because you always get something in them so there’s no chance of ‘losing’. this opens the door for any random chance associated with purchase to be branded as gambling. We do that stuff to kids a lot, and it’s been fine for decades because that’s how most low cost collectibles are distributed (stickers, cards, smaller/cheaper toys).

also i’m not sure anyone will care; Italian law prevents manufacturers making changes to products after people have bought them (they don’t have the right to change the utility of what someone already bought i think is the basis of it), and they’ve pushed companies over it before for things like firmware updates, articularly for phones and consoles when firmware changes prevented hacks/jailbreak or removed features (a ps3 linux or backward compatibility thing i think), and nothing changed.

stickers will be put on games in belgium advising that the games contain a form of gambling, and parents and kids will ignore them. Or they’ll just not sell in belgium, and the belgians will mail order them or buy them from shops in france or the netherlands, as germans do with anything germany says you can’t buy there.

region locking might take some technical effort, and i don’t believe anyone can be arsed with that, this is one for politicians/publishers/retailers to sort out/earn money for talking about, nothing to do with games.

Just reading more into this, it wants all ingame purchases banned for anything where you dont know what your getting. So, buying 5 loot boxes for a tenner is banned, but buy 50000 ingame money for 50 quid is fine, and then you spend it all on loot boxes.

That’s the reason I mentioned region locking - because it happens in Germany. Doesn’t matter if it is hard to do or not - if the lawmakers say “it can’t be sold here” - then publishers will have to go to length to show they are not selling it in that region. They wouldn’t care how hard that is to implement.

It’s fucking stupid. As you alluded to, kids are focused with gambling from an early age. You go to a school fete and you probably pay a couple of pence to spin a wheel and win a toy or chocolate or something. That’s not a problem.

As kids become adults, they’ll be exposed to gambling. Surely better to expose them to it and educate them in the value of money and the odds of how these things work. Show them the structure in that how it is the publishers/bookie who is the ultimate winner so they can go in with their eyes open and are savvy for the real world. If you ban stuff, you just push problems further back to another day.

but how is the german region lock implemented? How do they prevent people importing, buying/redeeming games or codes abroad, especially with so many other nations on their doorstep? how do they handle people moving to their country? Can you only buy that version, can you not buy a copy abroad and then use it in germany? Would i have to sit on the border while they raise tickets with EA or valve to have games removed from my account? Or does the publisher do the absolute minimum possible (make a region specific version they only sell there, or not sell it there at all) and germany accepts that because it doesn’t want to pay it’s share of trying to implement anything more draconian?

They care how hard it is to implement once they need to pick up the tab, and if you make a thing harder to do legally you increase your own crime rate (albeit for this it’d be imperceivable because no one actually cares if anyone smuggles a videogame across a border and no one is likely to produce accurate specific crime rate figures for it). Like Jes said, that’s just making a problem for someone else to have to sort out.

As long as the people of germany can still buy whatever they want from wherever they can (which i believe is the case), whatever laws get in the way are only there so the politicians and lawyers had something to do to earn their money. That’s the purpose of the legal industry, but a government should know better.

isn’t that why we already have in-game currency…(it permits non-cash refunds for duplicates, as without that you’d need to offer a cash refund, or the user could ‘lose’ their money and then it would definitely be gambling; digital duplicates hold no value unless they can be traded). I’m sure that already came up years ago for something else but i can’t remember what game (something i didn’t play, so maybe 3rd person?)

the human race is focused on gambling at most ages; the bulk of the population want more, and are willing to do whatever they can to get it, with no guarantee of success, and no concern for anyone else who may be negatively impacted.

I think you’re discounting neurological differences in kids, to be fair. It’s been recognised by research that below a certain age, our impulse control is far weaker.

You could make an argument for education by limited access, but a bit in the sense of educating a child about alcohol by giving them the occasional sip of something. I don’t think anyone proposes giving them the key to liquor cabinet, leaving them to their own devices and telling them “By the way, if you drink enough, something magical might happen! Go on, you can do a bit more!” which is kinda what gambling does :smiley:

According to the Belgium press no decision has been made yet.

Little update at the bottom of the article.

You can bet your asses this is not the end of this. Hawaii also announced to take actions and I’m failry certain it won’t be the last. Here is the video of the announcement. It just needed a big scandal so that goverments are FORCED to react. It will start with a few here and there, until the majority will have certain restrictions in place. I’m fairly concerned what might be conidered problematic, this could affect other, fairer, microtransaction systems too (Warframe, Dota, Lol, Guild Wars 2).

To help with the region lock debate. Its easy and its done already everywhere. No Germany has no special tools to prevent you from buying black market titles elsewhere, but its strictly forbidden to do so. If you are catched selling to Germans, or owning specific banned games you will be in the shit. This can range from money fees to jail time.

In general it USED to be easy to get around it. Now they are trying more to prevent the sale itself with tougher sanctions. Not sure how well that works but I’m a bit out of the loop, my informations are around 8 years old :smiley: . Still it seems your Steam account uses some of the informations where it was created. I was forced to buy the key for Wolfenstein (3 years ago) somewhere else, as Steam was insisting I have a German steam account even while living in Japan! That in itself wasn’t as easy anymore as it used to be, lots of restrictions on people buying games outside the region, only a few shops are willing to deal with that.

At that time Steam was using IP certification for ACTIVATING the key, easily circumvented by VPNs. But in recent time some developers use the certification not only for the activation but also while running the game or even for downloading it. That makes it borderline impractical to play games outside your region, for a couple of reasons.

VPNs bandwitdths aren’t too great (I have a paid one) and have trouble with peer-to-peer connection types. This will result in higher pings which you can deal with if you won’t play competetive. The problem is downloading the game, you can’t download 40+ GB with a VPN that bugs out every now and then. Best example I know of is Black Desert. Since they updated to that system I can’t play it anymore as the download crashes all the time while using a VPN, caused by the larger package loss. There are methods to detect VPNs too, popular example would be the one Netlix uses.

All in all, the technology for region lock is already widely used and effective, you just don’t know about it as you barely come in contact with it.

of course i don’t come in contact with it, i wouldn’t live in a country if the restrictions got in the way of something i wanted to do :slight_smile: They can legislate whatever they like as long as they don’t actually prevent me doing anything.

similarly, it might be strictly prohibited, but that’s a case of making sure you don’t get caught, the same as anything else. The key elements are ensuring there isn’t a personal victim and no significant material gain to oneself, as those will get attention and prosecution. shit example: If I moved to Belgium, and bought a game Belgium said i couldn’t have because it was a risk to children due to gambling, i wouldn’t give a shit, because i’m not irresponsible enough to allow a child access to funds and my pc, so there is no victim, and no gain to myself. it might be illegal, but it’s definitely not ‘wrong’, so to hell with whoever’s making the legislation :slight_smile:

I’ll go by my own moral or ethical compass over one that a committee of people someone else elected have determined based on a lack of understanding, because following theirs would be lunacy.

incidentally, steam accused my account of being German too! For several years, but it never prevented me doing anything as a result, and at some point me telling it i was in the UK eventually took hold (it kept reverting back at login, for maybe 3-4 years; valve support are the worst).

For black desert, have you tried downloading it in another region then throwing btsync at it to pull it down locally? I’m assuming from the way you describe it it’s the technical issue stopping you playing it rather than the moral implications of whatever claimed legitimate reason someone might have for stopping you? you’d have to re-hash after updates on whatever the remote client was but it should limit the amount of data you’d have to pull down*. you’d still have to VPN to play i guess. Remind me why you can’t just play where you are?

*I’ve only done the download and hash part of this to provide to someone else, but it worked for them.

Yanks are getting in on the act now

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-04-25-now-belgium-declares-loot-boxes-gambling-and-therefore-illegal

Looks like things are progressing and the Belgians are serious about this.