Belgium says loot crates are gambling


One thing to think about though is that part of the pleasure of gaming is wrapped up in the rewards, or progression, and part of that progression has always been random. Random loot drops, coupled with a smattering of guaranteed drops from bosses, has been a mainstay of MMOs, for instance, forever. I think part of the problem is a matter of scope and scale. When games are designed almost entirely around conditioning players to get on a treadmill the subject gets a bit murky.

But where is the line behind bad or sketchy design principles and truly immoral or potentially illegal behavior? Fortified wines are made to pack a huge alcohol punch in a cheap, (apparently) tasty package, and thus are the preferred booze of winos. Not illegal, but ethical?


The MMO’s you paid to get access to the server right, for most people. Then you would pay for things like name changes, or specific things. Then the F2P you could buy like XP potions, things that made you win faster but to flat out just give them 50 bucks for a digital boxes without any advertised ratio what’s in the box for things that might trigger that high… I don’t recall much of that. Sure you might play longer or harder to get a chance at some random loot or a chest, but $10,000 dollars… that’s not typical. Even if he started at age 13 and ended at 19, 10k in loot boxes seems pretty outrageous for someone who isn’t throwing money in swimming pools. That’s an addiction.


Yeah, it does seem the connection between direct payment and variable rewards, in the context of an attractive/compelling game, is the issue. One could argue that at some point the product ceases to be a traditional video game and in fact becomes a gambling device, I suppose.


And if it’s a gambling device, there may not be much to stand on for restricting adults but there is for minors. And if it’s gambling, the credit cards might take issue with it too.

I honestly don’t know exactly what the answer is, but we don’t need 13 year old addicts, no matter who their parents are, and I think we’re past the point where the industry can say hold the brakes, we’ll figure this out ourselves. They kept pushing and pushing and now we’re here.


In some ways, it is reminiscent of the cigarette industry, where targeting youth with an addictive product was expressly designed to hook people early and keep them hooked for their lives. While even hard-core gambling in games sort of pales in comparison to, say lung cancer or emphysema, the basic concept is just as reprehensible in some ways.But yeah, it’s a question of offense, degree, and severity, and the answers are not simple.



Yeah, like I’ve said several times in this thread and the BF2 one, I would be very surprised if the industry doesn’t self-regulate. Inviting government regulation would be nigh-suicidal.


Since we’re back to variable rewards, let me pose a simple thought experiment:

A Cubs fan buys a ticket to a Cubs game for $20. If the Cubs win, he will be delighted. If they lose, he will be depressed.

Clearly, the rewards are variable. Is this an example of gambling?

Next, the Cubs fan gives $20 to a coworker. If the Dodgers beat the Astros, the coworker can keep the money. If they don’t, the coworker will give him $40 back. The Cubs fan otherwise wouldn’t care about the outcome.

Clearly, the rewards are variable. Is this an example of gambling?

Most people would answer “No” to the first question, and “Yes” to the second. What’s the difference?

Now let me suggest an answer: in the second example, you are getting something tangible in return. Something you legally own.

But you don’t legally own what you get out of a loot box. It’s not your property. It’s just feels like property, which is why loot boxes feel like gambling.

Yet your “ownership” is only a simulation. EA could take literally everything that ever fell out of a loot box away from you. Or lock it up and make you pay for it again. Maybe make you pay double if you want to see it again. Or just destroy it. You never actually owned it. EA just pretended you did. Any value you derived from it was solely in your mind. So how is opening a loot box any different than the first example above?


Wasn’t all this covered at quite some length in the other topic?

I mean is there anything new in this topic, any argument we have not seen presented in the other one?


Belgium, the first post, is new.


People give a crap about belgium? Where belgium goes, so goes the world?


Seems unlikely to me.

I think the China stuff referenced in the other topic is way more relevant.


Denmark, Germany, UK and others are noticing as well - Belgium is a part of EU, and a lot of laws tend to be EU specific (See our upcoming Data Protection law, GDPR), so - yeah, where Belgium goes, its possible the rest of EU goes as well.


Update: According to Belgian news site RTBF (Google translated), Belgium’s Gaming Commission has not actually finalized its decision on whether loot boxes are gambling. The site says the statement that appeared in the original report, stating that the “mixture of money and addiction is a game of chance,” is descriptive of the investigation’s intent rather than its conclusion.

Wake me up when any of that actually happens. Meanwhile, China will set the terms here.


Nah, for F2P loot box driven games China will set the terms since that’s a primary market. For AAA western releases the EU is a bigger market for the time being.

I have no idea if there will be an EU wide regulation regarding chance driven in-game purchases (there’s some movement in that direction with several countries looking into it simultaneously, but it’s way too early to say), but if there is, expect it to be strict in its terms and enforceable through heavy fines to companies that don’t comply.


If it’s anything like the EU cookie notification law, I’m sure that will be … amazing.



That’s a good summary of digital property considerations, and interesting. But when you buy a ticket to a ball game, the rewards are not variable. They are fixed. You get access to the game. There is no expressed or implied warranty of any particular win state. It’s simply access. When you buy, say, a lotto ticket, the rewards are variable; you are buying a chance, clearly expressed, at a variable tangible outcome.

I am on the fence as to whether loot boxes in games per se are inherently gambling in a moral or legal sense as we understand it. Certainly, the process of getting a loot box–or looting a boss, or finding stuff in a chest, or whatever–is based on variable rewards. You go on a raid, you don’t know if those wizard boots you want will drop, or another damn thief dagger. But there’s always something there, and one could argue that what you are getting as a reward is “something,” not “a specific something.”

It’s when you couple, directly, real-world, tangible costs (beyond time and effort, meaning, money) with the reward that you get weirdness. If you could pay $20 instead of going on the raid, and get the same random chance of loot, that would be really bad game design, but would it be gambling? If you were in effect paying for some loot, any loot, and you always got some loot, any loot, then it’s murky. But you can make the case that the only reason to go on the raid/pay for the loot was a specific thing you wanted/needed, and then the loot you do get becomes sort of binary, good/useless, with most of the results useless.

Really, though, for me it comes down to the idea that conceptually, yes, selling lootboxes/engrams/booster packs, whatever, does inculcate a habit of risk-taking based on paying for a chance at something useful through randomized results, that can arguably be linked to gambling behavior. Whether that rises to the level of legally actionable or morally questionable is to me a different and much more difficult question.


In sheer numbers, yeah, but the EU has enormous clout, largely because it’s a lot more attuned to traditional Western ideas and practices, and has aggressive consumer protections combined with a lot of money being spent on stuff like this. China as the population, and by sheer volume a lot of economic clout, but I think the average prices/amounts paid by consumers on things like games is still higher in places like Europe. Ergo, selling games in Europe makes publishers huge amounts of money.


I think you might be concerned that there are two topics covering sameish territory, but they’re not exactly the same. They’re kind of opposite of each other, and I don’t think it’s important enough to worry about.


I had not noticed, but some sites are now explicitly using the “gambling” terminology in their own ads, e.g. beastskins here which lets you buy and gamble on skins loot boxes for several games. Is this a sustainable thing and is it fun or just hitting the same gambling addiction receptors?