Brussels prosecutors launch investigation into EA over refusal to remove loot boxes

Ruben Fields
September 12, 2018

Specifically it has been observed that EA has kept its Ultimate Team card packs in Federation Internationale de Football Association 18 and upcoming release 19 and has given no indication that it will make changes to comply with the law in Belgium. The report also states the company doesn't plan to remove the feature from this month's release of Federation Internationale de Football Association 19. EA, meanwhile, doesn't feel it is in violation of the existing anti-gambling laws, because loot boxes, in its opinion, do not constitute gambling. Basically, if a game allows players to spend real money on randomised in-game items, then it has to be categorised as gambling and highlighted as such. "You are getting a certain number of assets that are guaranteed - and we're going to start to do pack odds disclosures that'll show you the odds of what you might get", EA COO Daryl Holt said at the time.

Machine-translated reports from Belgium's Niewsblad and Metro newspapers suggest that Belgian gaming commission has now referred the matter to the country's public prosecutor's office, which is conducting an investigation into it.

EA seems to be standing firm over its implementation of loot boxes, which were banned in Belgium back in April after the Belgian Gaming Commission found them to be "games of chance", and therefore gambling. The government body specifically called out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Star Wars: Battlefront 2.

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2K Games has also limited access to certain MyTeam features in National Basketball Association 2K, and Blizzard has removed the ability to purchase Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm loot boxes with real money in both regions.

Over the last couple of months, several big gaming publishers, namely Valve, Blizzard and 2K Games, have all given up a substantial amount of income in online transactions from both Belgian and Dutch players. Minister of Justice Koen Geens said publishers could risk prison sentences (up to five years) and fines (up to €800,000) if games with loot boxes continued to be distributed within Belgium.

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