Belgium’s loot box ban is already causing publishers like 2K Games to lobby their players for the right to gamble away their money. Now, EA has found itself directly in the Belgian Gaming Commission’s crosshairs after refusing to remove loot boxes from FIFA.
Belgium’s Metro reports (via Eurogamer) that the “Brussels public prosecutor’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the company Electronic Arts because it continues to offer ‘loot boxes’ in its video games FIFA 18 and 19,” according to a Google translation.
FIFA 18 was one of the specific games that the Belgian Gaming Commission called out for implementing gambling via Ultimate Team’s card packs. The BGC decided that, since these card packs made gambling easily accessible to minors, they were in “violation of gaming legislation and can be dealt with under criminal law,” with a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a fine of around $974,000.
Instead of removing the ability to purchase its loot boxes with real money as games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and NBA 2K19 have already done, EA continues to insist that loot boxes aren’t a form of gambling and seems willing to take this issue to court. Back in June, EA announced that its various games’ Ultimate Team card packs will disclose the odds of what you may get when opening a pack. The fact that the word “odds” even factors into this conversation sure make opening a card pack seem at least a little bit like gambling, but hey, we’re not legal experts.
The tragic irony in all this is that EA was the publisher that kicked off this entire anti–loot box legal crusade in the first place with its poor handling of Star Wars Battlefront II‘s microtransactions prior to the game’s launch. The game’s prelaunch loot boxes, which initially included items that actively affected gameplay, caused an uproar from the gaming community and brought the conversation about the ethics and legality of loot boxes into the mainstream. If that never happened, EA might still be happily shilling Ultimate Team card packs to Belgian kids without a worry in the world.
FIFA 19 launches on September 28th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.