EA Could Face Criminal Prosecution in Belgium For FIFA Loot Boxes
Electronic Arts, more commonly known as EA, could potentially face criminal prosecution in Belgium for refusing to remove loot boxes from its video game, FIFA 18. Belgium’s gaming commission recently declared many loot boxes in video games to constitute illegal gambling in their current form and that they needed to be removed or modified. The game publisher has refused to do so.
EA Refusing to Remove Loot Boxes
With the launch of FIFA 19 on the horizon, the Belgian prosecutor’s office is currently in the process of deciding whether to begin criminal action against EA for its refusal to remove or modify its loot boxes. In FIFA 18, players are able to buy loot boxes with in-game currency. Alternatively, if players want to, they can buy these loot boxes with real-world money. The loot boxes have randomized items in them, namely soccer players and other items that will speed up progress through the game.
Earlier this year, the Belgian gaming regulator decided that the loot boxes in FIFA 18 were considered a game of chance. Any video games which were found to violate the country’s gambling law needed to remove the loot boxes or modify them. The requested modifications included age verifications to help protect children, as well as implementing spending limits. Belgium also required the odds to be displayed, access to details about the RNG system, and displaying warnings that the game contained gambling.
Loot Boxes Not Gambling, says EA
EA has repeatedly claimed that its loot boxes are not gambling. Various other publishers have already complied with the regulations in Belgium, but EA is refusing. EA made headlines last year with Star Wars Battlefront II, which was designed around loot boxes to such an extent that it would almost force players to buy them to be competitive in multiplayer games. There was such huge backlash from the gaming community that they had to be removed and the game’s progression redesigned. It was this event that thrust the loot box issue into mainstream media, as well as gambling authorities.
This led to various gambling commissions from around the world to begin investigating these systems. Belgium, Holland, China, and Japan have all started regulating them. Many other countries are still investigating. The UK and France both decided that they aren’t gambling, but are worried about the addictive nature they have, as well as the impact on the children who play these games.