Loot boxes came under intense public scrutiny after the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2, leading to a number of investigations into the practice by various government organizations worldwide. These investigations began months ago, but are finally reaching conclusions, with the Netherlands recently declaring some loot boxes as unlawful gambling. Now Belgium has followed suit, declaring the use of loot boxes in video games illegal, and asking for them to be removed entirely.
The Belgian Gaming Commission investigated multiple games known for their loot boxes, such as Overwatch, FIFA 18, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Despite Star Wars Battlefront 2 actually starting the loot box controversy to begin with, that game was only one that the Belgian Gaming Commission determined was not a form of gambling because the loot boxes had been removed at the time of the investigation.
Belgium's Minster of Justice, Koen Geens, wants to meet with the developers of these games to discuss their options moving forward. If the developers of Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive don't remove loot boxes from the games, they could face a prison sentence of up to five years, as well as a fine of 800,000 Euros.
Belgium's declaration is arguably the biggest blow to loot boxes since the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy started late last year. It may encourage other countries to follow its lead, including the United States of America, where multiple states have introduced legislation that will regulate the use of loot boxes in video games.
It will be interesting to see how the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) responds to this latest development. So far, the ESA has insisted that loot boxes aren't gambling, and has only offered to add a rating to games with microtransactions in them. Of course, almost every major game nowadays has microtransactions, meaning the ESA's solution would fail to single out titles that use loot boxes - a point that has been used to further criticize the organization's reaction to the controversy.
With fines and prison time now a possibility for video game developers and publishers with loot boxes in their games, it's clear that changes will have to be made. What those changes will be remains to be seen, however.