Electronic Arts has seemingly caved to legal pressure and announced that, after January 31st, it will no longer be selling FIFA Ultimate Team points in Belgium.
This announcement comes several months after a September 2018 report revealed that Belgian public prosecutors were conducting criminal investigations into EA’s loot box practices in FIFA 18 and 19 following an April 2018 decision by the Belgian Gaming Commission stating that FIFA’s Ultimate Team points made gambling easily accessible to minors, putting them in violation of Belgian gambling laws. Prior to the September 2018 investigation, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and NBA 2K19 removed their own loot boxes from Belgian digital stores in compliance with the BGC’s decision, but EA refused to do the same with FIFA’s Ultimate Team points until now.
In an official statement, EA clarified that Belgian players will still have access to Ultimate Team, keep the players they’ve already earned, can still purchase card packs with points earned in-game, and will be able to spend the FIFA points they’ve purchased prior to the cutoff date. The only difference is that they will no longer be able to spend real-world money on FIFA points.
Despite backing down for the moment, it’s clear that Belgium’s loot box ban hasn’t changed any minds over at Electronic Arts.
“We seek to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to our players in all our games,” EA’s statement continued. “In addition to providing players options in how they play, we include pack probabilities in our games for the transparency players want to make informed content choices. While we are taking this action, we do not agree with Belgian authorities’ interpretation of the law, and we will continue to seek more clarity on the matter as we go forward.”
And in case you’re an investor, EA clarified that the “impact of this change to FIFA Ultimate Team in Belgium is not material to our financial performance,” so don’t go selling off your shares just yet.
Loot boxes fell out of favor over the course of 2018, thanks to EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II, which brought mainstream attention to the issue of gambling in video games, and it doesn’t seem like 2019 will be much different. Prior to the holidays, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission agreed to investigate loot boxes to determine whether or not they constitute gambling. An anti–loot box decision from the FTC could have major implications for companies like EA and Activision down the line.