With loot boxes in Belgium recently declared illegal because of the country’s gambling laws classifying all games of chance as gambling activities, publishers who sell games in the region that have loot boxes in them are beginning to pull their support out of the region. The future of loot box mechanics in the region is clear, as Belgium’s gaming commission heads to court to criminally charge Electronic Arts for their gambling practices. Another major publisher, Square Enix, has just announced that they will be pulling several games from the region, rather than disable microtransactions that allow for the purchase of loot boxes.
The common theme between all of them is this “uncertainty” over loot boxes in Belgium, and Square’s concern is obviously increased with the news that EA was going to be taken to court. All four games allow for the purchase of virtual currency to buy goods in the game, and all four have loot box mechanics available to players. Because the EU doesn’t always have the same rules across the union, Square can continue to offer the full games with all microtransactions in regions outside of Belgium, so it’s not a big loss.
In addition, they may be able to tailor their offerings for other countries like the Netherlands, where they could skirt the ruling by disabling any cross-user trading, and/or reveal a part of the loot box’s contents before purchase.
Square is closing the door on litigation from the government, but they’re also opening up the door for their former customers to take them to the small claims court for refunds. In Belgium, citizens who lose access to software or services in the country under circumstances beyond their control are eligible to claim back refunds for all expenses through the app or service. The company stands to lose a substantial amount of revenue as a result of the shutdown and refunds to players, and we’ll probably see that play out in their next financial earnings call highlighting the shutdown in the EU.