In a continuation of the seemingly interminable loot box controversy gripping the gaming world since EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 debacle last autumn, players in both The Netherlands and Belgium can no longer access Counter Strike: Global Offensive loot crates on Steam. The change forms part of a patch issued this week.
The news follows on from Valve completely disabling Dota 2 and CS:GO Steam trading and market capabilities for Dutch players late last month. At the time, the company said the move was their ‘only practical alternative’ to keeping them in-game.
The move was in response to the Netherlands Gaming Authority ruling that loot boxes found in four out of ten games (though it failed to specify which) represented a breach of the country’s gambling laws. The body advised companies of ‘enforcement action’ if steps were not taken by a cut off date of June 20th. This ‘action’ was defined further as including hefty fines of up to 10% of worldwide loot box profits for any company violating the law. With its hands tied, Valve had but one option.
After a lengthy investigation spanning multiple months, authorities in Belgium followed suit condemning loot boxes though they specified FIFA 17, Overwatch, CS:GO, and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 as the offending parties. The Gambling Commission in Belgium ordered the loot boxes be removed, threatening company representatives with ‘a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to €800,000’.
This week the trading and market features were reintroduced, but with a vital feature missing; containers or in common parlance, loot boxes. Players can still flog their in-game wares, but won’t be able to open loot boxes at all. They’ll invariably be some backlash from those accustomed to trying their luck with loot boxes, though partial functionality is better than Valve’s initial plan to completely remove trading and selling.
Loot boxes items in both titles are merely cosmetic and do not bring any added in-game benefit other than bragging rights. With this in mind, the ruling by both bodies can seem a tad excessive. However, the move garners more sympathy as we consider the inherent risks of gambling. Remembering that younger players may not have the resolve and self-control required to gamble responsibly, loot boxes can be the first step down a slippery slope.