In April 2018, the Dutch Gaming Commission ruled that several games contained loot box systems that could be considered gambling, and that the companies making these items available to minors and adults with addictive personalities without restrictions would be fined if they did not disable the offending items by 20 June 2018. As it happens, Valve disabled the feature as requested this week, and CS:GO and DOTA2 players in The Netherlands have discovered that they can no longer trade items from these games on the Steam Market.
In a statement to the press, Valve goes into details about why they chose to disable trading instead of make other amendments to the service. The company announced that they received the letters of recommendation from Kansspelautoriteit following the investigation’s end, and had to read the same report that the public was given by the organisation. Valve’s interpretation, with assistance from Dutch lawyers the company hired, is that the easiest way to comply with the regulations was to disable trading, as the Kansspelautoriteit gave no other indication of how companies should adhere to the ruling.
This means that, in effect, players in The Netherlands have sizeable inventories of items earned in-game or from chests that cannot be sold, traded, or gifted to other players. They cannot make money off their skins in their inventories, and any players who had borrowed expensive skins from players in another country can no longer return them. These items are worthless, and there is no point in collecting them, or paying for keys to open the chests that drop after matches.
It seems that turning off trading was easier than the other alternative that Kansspelautoriteit put forward in their report on lootboxes – specifically, that companies selling loot boxes in their games “remove the addiction-sensitive elements (“almost winning” effects, visual effects, ability to keep opening loot boxes quickly one after the other, and suchlike) from the games and to implement measures to exclude vulnerable groups or to demonstrate that the loot boxes on offer are harmless.”
Valve’s press release follows below. This was delivered through the Steam client directly to players who had CS:GO or DOTA2 installed on their machines.
In May, we received two letters from the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit, stating that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 contain ‘loot boxes’ that violate the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act.
The Kansspelautoriteit accusation is different from how other countries think about loot boxes, so we hired Dutch legal counsel, looked at the recent Study into Loot Boxes published by the Kansspelautoriteit, and learned more about Dutch law. We still don’t understand or agree with the Kansspelautoriteit’s legal conclusion, and we’ve responded to explain more about CS:GO and Dota 2.
In the meantime, we have a threat from the Kansspelautoriteit to prosecute Valve if we don’t implement a remedy by June 20. The letters don’t tell us how to do that, but the Study into Loot Boxes does contain one rather simplistic statement:
“Loot boxes contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are transferable. Loot boxes do not contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are not transferable.”
So for now our only practical alternative is to disable trading and Steam Marketplace transfers for CS:GO and Dota 2 items for Dutch customers. We apologize to you for this inconvenience. We hope that, after more engagement with the Kansspelautoriteit, they may refine their legal demands and we can find a solution that is less inconvenient.