Six Dutch political parties are taking action to completely ban the mechanic of loot boxes from video games sold within the Netherlands.
The “Motion by member Bontenbal et al. on banning loot boxes in video games also in the Netherlands” (machine translated via DeepL) was noticed by users of gaming forum ResetEra earlier this month.
The motion was submitted by a bipartisan team of politicians across six different Dutch political parties, whose membership, as reported by GamesIndustry.biz, includes Henri Bontenbal, (Christian Democratic Appeal, Don Ceder (Christian Union), Queeny Rajkowski (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), Renske Leijten (Socialist Party), Lisa van Ginneken (Democrats 66), and Kauthar Bouchallikh (GroenLinks).
“Having heard the deliberations,” opens the politicians’ motion, before moving to list the group’s various arguments behind their request.
The group then noted “that in video games children are manipulated into making microtransactions, and that loot boxes are also a form of gambling; [and] that these transactions are addictive and can burden families with unexpected bills for these transactions; [and] that consumer associations from eighteen European countries are jointly calling for regulation of these loot boxes; [and] that the Dutch gaming authority has attempted to regulate these loot boxes, but that the Council of State ultimately did not go along with this;” [and] “that these loot boxes are prohibited in Belgium”.
In light of these arguments, the politicans requested that “the government to seek a possibility to regulate these loot boxes in video games in the Netherlands as well and to amend the law where necessary to do so, and shall proceed to the order of the day.”
GamesIndustry.biz reports the motion will need to be supported by the House of Representatives, before it can be debated in the Dutch Senate for approval.
As noted by the Motion, Belgium banned loot boxes in 2018, resulting in several titles opting to either cease operation within the country all together or removing loot boxes and premium currency from those versions of the game.
In 2020, The Netherlands similarly ruled to classify loot boxes as gambling. This decision was followed by EA facing up to a €10 million fine (€500,000 each week it continued to sell loot boxes), as they were effectively selling a game of chance in the form of FIFA Ultimate Team packs without a license.
However this ruling was overturned in March 2022 by the Dutch Administrative Jurisdiction Division, who argued that the opening of character packs was “not an isolated game” in and of itself, the “vast majority” of packs were freely available to be obtained through regular gameplay, and that it the mechanic was just a smaller part of a “wider game of skill.”
“The publisher has therefore not violated the Games of Chance Act and the Gaming Authority should therefore not have imposed a penalty payment on the publisher,” the Dutch Administrative Jurisdiction Division ruled.
The larger debate over loot boxes arguably began after it was discovered that everything in the lootbox heavy Star Wars Battlefront II took either 4,500 hours of play, or $2,100 to unlcok. Various nation’s leaders and legistlators have since moved to form their opinion on the monetization scheme.
U.S. Senator Josh Hawley introduced an anti-loot box and anti-microtransaction bill to the US Senate, though it ultimately failed, while the UK Gambling Commission argued that loot boxes didn’t constitute gambling. More recently, California ruled loot boxes as legal under state law.
Of course, these efforts did little to stop the developers from defending the concept of loot boxes, in some cases with an impressive amount of mental gymanstics.
EA Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs told a UK Parliament committee that loot boxes were “surprise mechanics“, comparing them to children’s candy with a free toy and insisting they were actually “quite ethical and fun.”
Epic Game’s general counsel also stated to the same committee that, in regards to Fortnite’s loot boxes, he disagreed that “Epic makes money from people playing the games.” However, his admission allegedly came after bagering by the speaker.
Is government intervention the best way to prevent predatory loot boxes? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments below!