The Netherlands Gaming Authority has deemed some games' usage of loot boxes as gambling after investigating 10 unnamed titles following concerns by players, parents, and those working in addiction care.
Its report Study into loot boxes found that four of those 10 games contravened its Betting and Gaming Act as they include randomised prizes with real-world value, but don’t offer players influence on the outcome.
The NGA took issue as it believed the design and mechanics behind loot boxes to be very similar to gambling games like slot machines and roulette, which presents difficulty as offering “games of chance” to Dutch consumers requires a licence to operate.
While it took no legal query with the other six titles, as they don’t offer loot boxes with any real-world worth or market value, the group maintained that loot boxes in general pose an additional risk as they’re aimed towards younger people.
Not leaving it to chance
"They are designed as gambling games are designed, with the feeling that you have almost won," said Gaming Authority director Marja Appelman.
"There are all sorts of sound effects and visual effects when you open such a loot box, so you have a tendency to play through and through."
As reported by NOS, the publishers of the four unnamed titles have been given eight weeks to amend their loot box model or face a potential fine along with being publicly named. The games in question are rumoured to be FIFA 18, DOTA 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Rocket League, though this has not been confirmed.
The latest report by the Netherlands Gaming Authority continues a public discussion on the ethics behind how games make money.
In the last few weeks lawsuits have been filed against four online games companies in the US that allege their digital casino offerings constitute illegal gambling under Washington state law.
Those lawsuits followed a similar ruling from last month in which the Ninth Circuit of US Court of Appeals said that Big Fish Games’ casino games violated Washington state law about online gambling and in-turn sent a case previously thrown out back into the courts.