Belgium launches criminal investigation on EA’s FIFA loot boxes

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The Belgian government has initiated a criminal probe into the lootboxes bundled with Electronic Art’s (EA) FIFA game. The government had earlier declared loot boxes to be a form of gambling. However, EA, as the publisher of FIFA, has refused to modify the randomised card pack loot boxes in accordance with the country’s gambling laws, effectively triggering the probe.

Here is a short history of what led to this development. Back in April, Belgium’s Gaming Commission determined that loot boxes found in FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were an “illegal game of chance,” and thus subject to Belgian gambling laws. Failure to adhere to these laws – which include ensuring that minors are unable to access the gambling elements within a game – is illegal.

Following the ruling, Blizzard, Valve, and 2K Games all elected to disable loot boxes in their games in Belgium. EA, however, has done nothing, and as a result (according to Belgium publication Metro, via Google Translate) is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Brussels public prosecutor’s office. If it decides to prosecute, the case will go to court.

The Belgium government’s Gaming Commission considers loot boxes to be a game of chance because players do not know exactly which items a box may contain when purchasing it.

EA, however, says otherwise, stating in April that its games were “developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world” and that it did not agree that its games could “be considered as any form of gambling.”

This, said EA CEO Andrew Wilson in May, is because “players always receive a specified number of items in each pack” and because it doesn’t “provide or authorise any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money.”