Lawmakers want loot crates banned in Europe, U.S. (updated)

The outcry among gamers caused the publisher to pull the micropayments but the issue has since been taken by up by various governments. Today, Belgium announced that it considered loot crates with unknown items as gambling and wants them banned in Europe.

Last week, Belgium's Gaming Commission announced that it was investigating whether the loot crates available in Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront II constituted as a form of gambling. Local channel, VTM News (via PC Gamer) has now reported that the ruling is in. Koen Geens, Belgium's Minister of Justice, also added "Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child."

Loot crates with unknown items may never be banned but if anything, these events are a promising start. It'll take years for a law — if one even passes — to go into effect. However, it looks like lawmakers in the United States are also taking notice. Today, Hawaii State Representatives called out EA for its business practices in Star Wars Battlefront II.

The Representatives noted that Star Wars Battlefront II encouraged gambling and targeted children. It's unclear whether an agreement will be reached, however, recognized that a dialogue is needed in an official capacity. Representative Chris Lee shared some stern remarks about the game, during a press conference.

We are here today to ensure future protection to kids, youth and everyone when it comes to the spread of predatory practices in online ingredients and the significant financial consequences it can have on families and has been having on families of this nation. This game is a Star Wars themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money.

Star Wars Battlefront II is rated "T for Teen" by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). This means that children under the age of eighteen can purchase and play it without their parents. In fact, the ESRB says that T-rated games are generally suitable for ages "thirteen and up."

Adults may have an understanding that loot crates are all about luck and chance — just like gambling — children as young as thirteen might not fully grasp the consequences. Hopefully, loot crate practices will become more transparent in the future now that governments are getting involved, but only time will tell.

Update 11/22/17: Officials in Victoria, Australia also said that loot crates constitute gambling. Instead of banning them outright, the consensus seems to be that we must make sure minors aren't exposed to such practices. This may mean that ratings for games which include loot crates are higher and there are stricter requirements for buying them.

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Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

  • I don't really understand how loot crates in Overwatch are considered as gambling. Loot crates are only cosmetic loots in this game, it's not like your characters will get more powerful because of something you loot in a crate. But in the recent Assassin's Creed, you can buy some equipments in the windows store. This should be ban. Paying to be more powerful, how is that fare? But getting a FREE loot crate as a reward of leveling up to get something purely cosmetic that isn't unfair for other players, well I don't see the harm in that. If you keep playing, eventually you will get that cosmetic loot you are craving for.
  • You missed the point. It's not about game balance between paying and non paying players, it's about defending children from gambling addiction, which is very dangerous.
  • Yes I see what you mean. But still, it leads to say that these types of loot crates might be ban in games. With a simple parent control system on consoles or pcs, just make it not possible for kids to buy stuff in the store.
  • The controls already exist but not every parent knows about them and kids are trained on these things in mobile games as well. 
  • I believe these should be switched OFF by defualt. not every parent is tech savy.
  • If it is a system where you pay something and there a less than 109% chance that you actually get what you pay for that system should simply be regulated under the same conditions as sports gambling.
  • Then you had better ban every card game like Pokémon and magic... random cards that you pay for that give you the chance at advancement....
  • Card games are not the same as video games. You know what you get into when you start to play magic. You can't expect to buy one card game and be the best player that ever was. You buy a card game and that let you start to play as a beginner. If you want to get better, you know from the very beginning that you will have to buy more cards. In video games, I don't go back to any store once I've bought the game in order to be better at the game. You just buy it once and that's it.
  • Kiba85, that's the parents job, not the government, to ensure their kids aren't playing these types of games.  Ratings are on these things for a reason.  There is no excuse for parents to be ignorant.  Learning what our kids are doing and how is our responsibility.
  • So why do we have age limits on casinos? Or age limits to purchase legal drugs? To me, that is also the parent's responsibility to police. It is the government's job to protect, that's why these laws are in place.
  • What if loot crate is just a reward you get for completing a task, and you cannot just "buy" it? What if loot crates are a part of a have which has no microtransactions at all?
  • If it is a reward for completing a task it's not gambling. Only when cash changes hands does it become gambling.
  • How can you not understand it's gambling? can you not grasp this simple point?
  • Hey, I am not saying that gambling in games doesn't exist. I am just pointing out the fact that you usually gamble to get something useful (gambling at casino will give you money if you win, I can understand gambling problems here) but with games like Overwatch, once you get that skin, tag or icon you are looking for, it's not useful in anyway in the game. You don't become stronger or anything, just prettier. Do people really gamble for this kind of things? Especially when you also earn gold coins in the game which let you "buy" whatever you are looking for. If we were talking about games like Marvel Heroes, I would not have said anything. In this game, there are loot crates that give you skins that are only available le via buying in the store or Buying a loot crate where there is a slight chance of having the loot you want. There are no other ways of getting those skins, you need to spend money. Yes, this game is a nice example of gambling dangers for kids. Overwatch, no. As of StarWars, I don't own it, so can't talk about it.
  • In CS:GO isn't there a big thing about gambling and selling skins and stuff?
  • I don't know since I've never played CS (never liked it) ^^'
  • Blizzard are one of the most sly and underhanded of all of them. Sure Overwatch fans will defend them. But Blizzard practices are disgusting. And absolutely should be included in the ban.
  • That's not correct.  You don't gamble to get something "useful".  You gamble to get something of VALUE.  And value is expressed on the part of the customer, plain and simple.  What's value-added for one person may not be value-added for another.  Many DO find skins and other superficial modifications to be "useful" in the game, just not in the way you consider valuable.  In Elite Dangerous, I love the paint jobs, the ship kits.  I find VALUE in them and I'm willing to pay extra for them.  In contrast, they also have "Engineers", where you have to grind to even get access to them, and THEN you still have to acquire specific materials for Engineers to modify various parts of your ship. THAT is where the gamble comes in---you give them the materials and the Engineer "rolls" to produce blueprints for upgrades that may be significant or miniscule.  Now, from your perspective, the upgrades to my ship make it more powerful, give it better jump range or better shields, so that's "useful".  Well, I don't find any value in gambling for the CHANCE at decent upgrades.  So, there's nothing of value for me to gamble on.
  • I just feel loot crates as a part of gaming are just stupid, period, regardless of how they are executed.  And I have zero problem with micropayments for cosmetic things (like the way Elite Dangerous handles it).  I haven't made up my mind yet on micropayments for gearing up.  In real life, people absolutely pay more to get more or better gear, weapons, whatever.  That's how it works.  It has nothing to do with being FAIR.  So, it makes sense you could also do this in gaming.  But, if you make micropayments the ONLY way to acquire them, I think that's a foul.  I think games devs should always make it so that you can pick and own someone else's weapons.  If you kill someone with the BFG9000, you grab his weapon and it's yours.
  • "If you keep playing, eventually you will get that cosmetic loot you are craving for." this is exactly why it is gambling.  you have to keep playing to hopefully get what you want.  you don't just see the item and purchase it.
  • Anything that requires payment for a chance to possibly get something in return is classed as gambling in the UK, the government could force these games to have an 18 rating if they took action
  • Or at least have a system in place where you have to be 18 to unlock the "gambling aspect" of the game. A simple 18+ rating wont help as I have yet to see anyone being denied to buy a game based on their age.
  • There goes a real problem, because gambling is 21 in the US ( though there maybe some places that its 18). Mature games are supposed to be under 17 you need a parent. So are these games now going to be rated AO and actually carded with the age limit raised to 21?
  • Not sure where your numbers are from, the majority of the US requires you to only be 18 to gamble. The places where it's 21 are likely due to liquer being sold/given to people.
  • Really? Thanks. I wasn't sure what the actual laws were, but I have never been to a dry casino either. I have only been to 5 states personally and I seem to remember them all saying 21 and over, this includes video poker at restaurants which are prevalent in Louisiana. So much for assumptions. *EDIT* Looking up the information myself, I see I had it bass akwards, only a couple of states have 21 across the board. This doesn't make my point totally moot though, games will still need their ratings changed to AO and this will cause states to have to enforce their own age limit restrictions for sales.
  • They'll probably still allow paid unlocks in games, just without the unknown items element. Like in Battlefield: Bad Company and others where you could unlock weapons
  • That's less scummy at least. If you know what you're buying it becomes regular DLC. Forza car packs, for example, you know exactly which cars are in them. You don't hand over money thinking you could either get a Ferrari or a Prius for the same price.
  • Maybe the packs in Fifa ultimate team need investigating too. Loot crates, packs whatever you call them are a cash cow and encourage kids (and some adults) to become obsessed. Fully formed dlc would be the way forward ala forza horizon 3 blizzard mountain etc
  • Essentially everything EA is pushing in its games is potentially questionable. Activision, too, since you can buy crates with COD points (at least in the past you could) which can be bought with actual money and weren't just cosmetic stuff. I haven't paid enough attention to them in WW2 to know if it's the same deal as in IW.
  • I think the card pack games skirt the edge of this argument, as they generally guarantee your purchase consists of a certain number and type (i.e 1x rare, 3 x common or whatever). As long as they can prove that all cards of the same type have the same probability of appearing then they can least argue that you got what you paid for, a card pack made up of a set number and types of card. It's a pretty thin argument but it is still different than paying money for a completely unknown outcome.
  • Ok this is a little much saying loot crates are gambling is a bunch of crap. Especially when there are ACTUAL apps on phones, tablets, and computer that are at the finger tips of children that emulate the real gambling games such as slots, poker, blackjack, etc. So you can't go after one aspect of most games and completely ignore real games that actually are gambling.
  • Geez, talk about over-reach.  Governments have bigger fish to fry. Let the market drive the issue.  If enough people boycott, don't play, or simply do not buy loot crates the publishers/devs will get the picture.  It is only sustainable if the users support it.
  • But isn't that exactly the issue?  mature adults that understand what's going on might make a choise to boycott the game, or at least the purchases, but children will not, and they are precisely who the government is trying to protect.
  • That is the role of the PARENT.
  • Then why are there laws on an age for gambling. If it's up to the parent, why don't remove the age restriction. As someone else said, can't go after one without going after them all.
  • I assume you have an issue with all age restrictions governments placed on kids: drinking, smoking, gambling, driving, voting just to name the obvious ones.
  • Ok, I get your point about "value" and "useful", what I am trying to say from the beginning is that to me, Overwatch should NOT be on this list of games with gambling issues. The skins and paints you are talking about in your game can only be accessible by buying them, right? If so, I think it is a shame, these things should be in the game from the start (or via free updates) and accessible by playing. Marvel Heroes is a good example of gambling problems in games. You NEED to buy loot crates with real money in order to get a chance of having the skin you want. In Overwatch, 100% of the content can be acquired for free by just playing the game. Eventhough the loots are random, you also win gold coins which let you "buy" all the content, which means the skins and stuff you are targeting and didn't get so far in a loot crate.
  • in over watch do you see what the item is before you buy it?  or do you pay money for an item box that may be any number of items?
  • So are kinder eggs a form of gambling? My son doesn't know if he's gonna get boy or a girls toy. Please ban them aswell, it will save me a fortune.
  • Kinder eggs are actually banned in the US. A month or so ago I read a story about people who attempted to bring some into the US (not a lot, under 5-10, clearly for personal use), got caught and faced potential jail time for it. However, that ban is more related to the power of Mars than anything else. 
  • Ok, but why is Palpatine shooting lightning from his hands? lighting on the movies always comes from the fingers!
  • In some games, the loot crates are free drops but you have to buy keys to open them.  A key then gives you one random item from the crate and then the crate is consumed.  This is the gambling.  The player buys a chance just like a raffle drawing.  I don't know why existing laws don't cover this but they should be interpreted that way.  Take away the purchase of the key and such a thing would be OK, but no longer for the profit of the game company.  Stay tuned.
  • I think sticking a mature rating on these games could help. Listing in game purchases in the content break down will help parents know what to look out for and monitor. they will also be prompted to present ID at purchase time. Reguardless though the parent is going to have to know what is going on in their kids life. phone free to play games are no different. be informed and know what your kids are consuming.  
  • I think Gears of War is a perfect example. In Gears 3 there were a **** ton of weapon skins you could buy that were all visible and you could see up front what you were going to get for your money. In Gears 4 there are literal "loot crates"! They are completely based on rng. It's just a crappy roll of the dice. I'm sorry but I've already been sick of all this stupid gambling in games for a while now. Wasn't it recently published that Activision patented strategies, algorithms, to use rng to steer people into spending really money on better weapons? Infinite Warfare is another perfect example. In multiplayer the lame ass gambling system repeatedly gives you weapons in type categories you don't want. I have practically ever sniper rifle and shotgun variant unlocked when all I really wanted were assault rifles and smgs. Play the game and you'll see very quickly what in taking about. It feels like the game is F'ing with you. These stupid loot systems need to end!
  • We updated the story as Australian officials also consider them gambling.
  • every game system has parental controls, just put games of chance behind that.
  • These games are rated T for Teen. The average parent doesn't research each title.
  • Loot crates are already banned as far as I am concerned. If a game is not enjoyable enough for me without spending money on it, that game gets deleted.
  • HAHAHHAHAHA EA brought this on themselves
  • It's not the same thing. Loot boxes (I'm guessing you're talking about Lootcrate) are a service specifically designed to be a gamble. The problem with these games is that they're increasingly designed around micro-transactions and these gambling crates and less like games, HOWEVER, they're sold disguised as a game.