Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Gacha in Belgium

I was trying out Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia on my iPad. It is one of many "gacha" games on iOS, which are games in which you have a collection of heroes with which to fight. The heroes are acquired more or less randomly via loot boxes, and then you level them up, equip them, evolve them, etc. You get some loot boxes for free, but if you want more, you need to spend money on them. And because I live in Belgium, I will soon not be able to play the game any more. Due to Belgium considering loot boxes as a form of gambling, Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, and a bunch of other gacha games will be inaccessible from Belgium.

That is weird to some extent because gambling is regulated, but not illegal in Belgium. There are Belgian casinos, online casinos, and sports betting shops. But because following regulations costs money and is a hassle, some companies prefer to simply remove their loot box games from the Belgian market instead of following the regulations that would protect their customers.

As I have stated repeatedly in the past, I am not totally against games with in-game purchases. There are a number of games which I started for free and then decided to spend modest amounts on loot boxes and other in-game advantages on. As long as you stay reasonable in your purchases, that is an okay business model. Of course if you spend more money than you would have spent on a full price game, or even hundreds or thousands of dollars because you became addicted, that is a different problem. And I can totally see the need to restrict that legally. Which, in my opinion, should then be done in the form of spending caps. Not by simply removing the games from the Belgian market.

Of course this removal from the Belgian market only works because Belgium is a small country. There is a chance that Belgium succeeds in making their case to the other countries in the European Union, and loot boxes will be banned all over Europe. I would imagine that in that case game companies would come up with a way to still sell games in Europe, even if that game had a loot box mechanic in other countries.

Yeah. It seems like a necessary sacrifice. The rest of the EU following suit - or even just enough countries to have an impact - would definitely have to cause a rethink of the monetization technique.

Really looking forward to seeing the results of EA suing Belgium. Hopefully the courts side in favour of the People, or failing that, legislation is then drafted to address any deficiencies the case may identify for the same end result.

My understanding is that EA's case revolves around the assertion that the microtransaction ban is the regulator's misinterpretation of the law; but laws can - and should, in the face of new technologies and behaviours - be changed, if that's the case.
Lootboxes are predatory by their very nature. Not to mention they are detrimental to most games they are in.

I can only hope other countries follow Belgium in forcing publishers to get rid of them.
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