Comment & Opinion

Opinion: Here come the Belgians

Opinion: Here come the Belgians

Although best forgotten, UK readers of a certain age will remember the TV show It's a Knockout.

A game show involving physical activity mixed with zany challenges and very odd costumes, one of the highlights was the international version in which each team was from a different country.

It spawned the playground catchphrase "Here come the Belgians".

The reasoning seemed to be that the very existence of Belgians was - in some manner - funny. They didn't have to do anything other than be 'Belgians'.

Granted Belgium is a fairly recent creation; for most of history, alongside regions of the Netherlands and France, it was part of what was called the Low Countries.

Belgium proper only came into existence in 1830, although that does make it older than Italy (1861) and Germany (1871).

What is it good for?

Nevertheless, for some Anglo Saxons, Belgium remains a source of amusement; a tiny country riven between Dutch (Flemish) and French (Walloon) speakers, and known for the 586 days it endured without an elected government.

(Obviously this would be to ignore famous real and fictional Belgians ranging from Tintin and Magritte to Eddy Merckx, Hercule Poirot, and Audrey Hepburn. Oh and not forgetting Jean-Claude Van Damme.)

Still, harking back to Graham Greene's denoucement of Switzerland - 500 years of democracy and peace and all they produced was the cuckoo clock - it's never been clear what Belgium was good for.

Until now.

In Activision's recent press release toasing Call of Duty: Mobile's 35 million downloads, it mentioned the game had not yet been released in China, nor Vietnam.

And the other no-show was - you've guessed it - Belgium.

For you the war is over

Belgium is leading the world in its attitude to randomised loot boxes, which it now defines as gambling.

Partly this is a product of Belgium's specific gambling legalisation, and partly a product of how Belgium has chosen to interprete its legalisation.

So Belgium should not necessarily be viewed as being the first of many countries which will take similar a decision. Equally, loot boxes are not illlegal in Belgium; they're only illegal if you don't have a gambing licence and don't follow the rules.

Ironically, gambling is illegal in Japan and China; two of the countries which help invent and optimise loot box monetisation.

Nevertheless, Belgium's stance is significant.

With only 11 million people, it's not cost effective for game companies to get a gambling licence and follow the rules. Hence Belgium gamers can't play an increasing number of games especially mobile games.

Maybe they should get advice from Chinese gamers who have turned circumventing government restrictions into something of an art form.

The Great Firewall of China versus the Great Wallooned Garden of Belgium.

There's a sentence I never thought I'd ever write.


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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