At the end of April, the Belgium Gaming Commission investigated several games with paid loot box mechanics and declared that the feature was “in violation of gambling legislation.” One of the games investigated was Blizzard’s Overwatch. On Monday, Blizzard made an announcement on the EU Overwatch forums indicating that due to pressure from the Belgium government, the game’s loot boxes would be disabled for all players in the country.
BBC noted on their article first describing this issue that game developers who fail to comply to these policies could potentially face a fine of €800,000 (nearly $1 million USD) and spend up to five years in prison.
In addition to Overwatch, Blizzard commented in the same post that “Heroes of the Storm” would also have its chest purchasing disabled. What’s interesting to note here, is that buying cards in Hearthstone was completely unaffected. BBC’s earlier post pointed out how several people were critical of the Gaming Commission’s ruling because according to the writing of the law, “Pokémon and other trading cards” would also be illegal. Given how Hearthstone remains unchanged, it appears that the Belgium government is hesitant to make the gambling association with collectible cards as that would potentially open a whole new can of worms.
Blizzard’s own take on the issue is that they do not consider loot boxes as a form of gambling. While its understandable that they would want to distance themselves from the word “gambling” to be able to continue these particular revenue streams in the country, it’s rather obvious that Overwatch loot boxes and HotS chests are precisely that. The Webster dictionary defines gambling as, “to bet on an uncertain outcome.” Until players know exactly what is in a loot box they’re purchasing, it’s clearly gambling Blizzard.