Belgium's Justice Minister has called for a ban of loot boxes, which has sparked drama for Electronic Arts' (EA) latest release Star Wars: Battlefront II, in Europe due to the possibly of it being classified as gambling. During the past few weeks, the gaming community has been in an uproar following the revelation that the Star Wars video game is packed with microtransactions and loot boxes needed if the player wishes to progress in the game at a reasonable pace.
Originally, in Battlefront II, it would have taken players roughly 40 hours to unlock hero characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and about 4528 Hours (or $2100) to unlock everything in the game. This didn't bode well for gamers, who were hoping that the sequel to the disappointing 2015 reboot would be great Star Wars game, and it also didn't help when EA released a statement after stating the progression pace is meant to “provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes” - which became the most downvoted Reddit comment of all time. Since, EA has turned off all in-game purchases, but there is still concern that once the flames cool off EA will continue their practice if making gamers pay extra to experience all aspects of the game.
Thing aren't cooling off though, in fact, things seem to be getting worse for EA and other gaming companies that use microtransactions and loot boxes in their games. It was announced yesterday that the state of Hawaii will be launching an investigation into whether or not loot boxes can be considering gambling - which would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to play Battlefront II in Hawaii. Now, according to a new report on PC Gamer, it looks like Belgium has launched a similar investigation to determine whether EA is promoting gambling for children or not.
Belgium's Gaming Commission has not actually finalized its decision (despite prior reports stating that they have declared "yes"), but their report indicates that game operators can be "aggressive" in their targeting of young people for in-game sales. They are also calling for "closer cooperation between governments, software developers, and rating agencies," and stating "with the right rules and consistent enforcement," it should be possible to "protect players from the harmful effects of gambling without compromising the games themselves."
Whether loot boxes and microtransactions end up being considered gambling or not, the accusations alone that video game companies like EA are promoting addicting activities in children should raise a red flag and, hopefully, change the trajectory the industry is going in. For a big name like Star Wars, it certainly doesn't look good for Disney or Lucasfilm that they are now being caught in the middle of national and internationally investigations, so these accusations might just be what the gaming industry needs so they can better meet the needs of the player and not just make money.
Source: PC Gamer