Back in 2018, the Belgium Gambling Commission found that loot boxes were a form of gambling and recommended criminal prosecution against developers and publishers who implement them in their games. However, a new study found that Belgium’s ban is functionally not enforced.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, a study from loot box scholar Leon Y. Xiao found that the law has been unevenly and ineffectively implemented. The study claims that 82% of the highest-grossing iPhone titles in Belgium have loot box implementation. It goes on to claim that the ban gives parents and policymakers a “false sense of security.” In addition, the study emphasizes that the technical measures undertaken to prevent loot box purchasing in Belgium are easily circumvented by savvy players. Xiao concludes with recommending a less strict, but more thoughtfully enforced, policy.
Belgian’s policy did cause some broad changes in the country. After discussions with Belgian authorities, EA removed virtual currency from FIFA titles in the country. Nintendo ceased support for Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes to prevent prosecution or regulation. However, Xiao’s study argues that the ban allowed “non-compliant games to replace games that have been removed from the national market by more socially responsible companies.”
Other countries have investigated or introduced policy about loot boxes. Brazil opened an investigation of loot boxes last year. The UK recently encouraged the games industry to self-regulate after their own inquiry. Big games like Overwatch 2 and Halo Infinite have abandoned loot boxes monetization, despite including them in in their predecessors. Diablo Immortal prompted ongoing discussions about the connections between free-to-play monetization and gambling.
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