Nintendo has decided to remove Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes from Belgium over the country's concerns about the legality of loot boxes. Belgium, along with the Netherlands, decided to take a closer look at the inclusion of loot boxes in video games after player backlash emerged over loot boxes and microtransactions in titles such as Star Wars Battlefront 2, FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. After careful investigation, both countries concluded that loot boxes are a form of illegal gambling.
The Belgian Gambling Commission recommended the immediate removal of loot boxes from all games in the country. With players spending millions of dollars on loot boxes worldwide, the decision weighed heavily on the gaming industry, especially with other countries now starting to look at the practice. In the U.S., the FTC has decided to investigate loot boxes. There was also a recent study that suggested loot boxes contribute to a rise in child gambling problems.
With many "free" mobile games choosing loot boxes and microtransactions as their primary sources of income, it was only a matter of time before the backlash affected certain games. Nintendo posted to its Belgium Twitter account that it would remove two of its mobile games, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes, from mobile app stores in Belgium because of the country's determination of loot boxes as illegal gambling. Both games will disappear from app stores on August 27.
BREAKING: Due to the uncertain nature of gaming earn models in Belgium, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes’ services will be ended on August 27. https://t.co/7eXuTtL4Y0— Daan K. 🔜 Tokyo/Kyoto 🇯🇵 (@NintenDaan) May 21, 2019
Nintendo is not the first publisher to react to Belgium's decision. EA begrudgingly removed FIFA points from all its games in the country. Valve blocked loot boxes in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in Belgium, leaving players who had purchased them out of luck. There is also a growing resentment among consumers about games nickel and diming them to death, not just with loot boxes, but also with microtransactions. Most of the games that offer loot boxes are "free-to-play," but they're rarely actually free when consumers need to purchase additional in-game currency and items to proceed further in gameplay.
What's most interesting about Nintendo's decision, though, is that the company isn't just blocking loot boxes within these two games. Instead, the company has decided to block the games completely in Belgium. It's perplexing why Nintendo would remove the titles entirely, but perhaps it's an indication that the in-game economies are so embedded within the games that they're otherwise unplayable. If that's the case, though, then it's an indication of just how greedy game publishers have become, which is sad because most expect better of Nintendo.