Much debated and hated, the first nail in the coffin of loot boxes may have just been hammered in. It was quite some time ago that the increasingly outrageous prices of micro-transactions in general and loot boxes, in particular, drew politicians on the plan.
Outrage sparked and was quickly forgotten again. Loot boxes carried on as they had before then and without anything else…or at least that’s how it seemed. Now the next Domino has fallen – Blizzard has disabled loot boxes in Overwatch as well as Heroes of the Storm – at least in Belgium.
In an official post in Blizzard’s forum, the company announced that some loot boxes would be removed – paid ones that is. In reaction to the Belgian Gaming Commission’s report from April, the company removed them now. That Commission classed the boxes as gambling, and according to Belgian laws, that made them illegal.
It’s pretty obvious that Blizzard aren’t quite on board with this decision though: “While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law,” the company stated. “As a result, we have no choice but to implement measures that will prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money and gems”.
“While players in Belgium will no longer be able to purchase paid loot boxes in Overwatch and loot chests in Heroes of the Storm, they’ll still be able to earn them by playing the games, and they’ll still have access to all in-game content.”
Blizzard aren’t the first ones to be hit with this ban – earlier this year, Valve removed paid loot boxes from CS:GO and 2K removed them from NBA 2K. Fifa, the other major game listed in the report has yet to remove its boxes – EA insists they aren’t gambling.
Blizzard took four months to finally remove them, despite a promised prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800.000 euros for publishers who didn’t remove them – at the very least the prison sentence would have been impossible to enforce there (or how would Belgium have gone about extraditing half of Blizzard’s employees from countries all over the world to serve a prison sentence in Europe?) but the fine was a real possibility. Of course, it would have hardly hurt the company’s finances, but Blizzard still decided to remove the boxes in the end.
That doesn’t mean that the conversation is over yet though – Blizzard also announced that they were willing to discuss the matter further with the appropriate authorities and that they were leaving the door open to a possible return of the boxes in the future.
Compared to Battlefront 2 that really sparked the debate in 2017, Overwatch’s loot boxes have always been rather harmless – low in price and not at all necessary to improve or advance in the game. Either way though, for the foreseeable future, Overwatch fans in Belgium will have to do without paid loot boxes.