Four out of ten loot boxes found in video games recently studied by the Netherlands’ Gaming Authority violated the country’s Betting and Gaming Act, the organization revealed Thursday. It’s now giving game publishers until June 20 to comply with the law or they could face “enforcement action.”
Loot boxes are digital treasure chests players can either earn in-game or buy with real-life cash, and they’ve become a common practice in the video game industry in recent years. Their contents are usually random, which encourages players to spend more money as they pursue certain rewards. The Gaming Authority’s study found some loot box prizes can also be traded outside of their games, giving them a market value.
“Offering this type of game of chance to Dutch players without a license is prohibited,” it said in a press release. “Moreover, the analyses that are currently available indicate that all of the loot boxes that were studied could be addictive.” But, it added, there’s no indication loot boxes are being opened on a large scale by problem players.
The Gaming Authority began investigating loot boxes in November after “Star Wars Battlefront II” caused widespread controversy over a microtransaction system many felt was unfair and exploitative. Fans were so incensed they blasted publisher Electronic Arts on Reddit, giving it the most downvoted comment in history. EA also reportedly lost an estimated $3.1 billion in stock value at the time. It’s since overhauled the game’s microtransaction and progression systems, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers in the U.S., the Netherlands, Australia, and elsewhere from pursuing regulations against what they consider “predatory practices” and “gambling for children.”
The Dutch Gaming Authority is now asking the video game industry to modify its products before the mid-June deadline. It wants them to remove the addiction-sensitive elements (“almost winning” effects, visual effects, the ability to open multiple loot boxes quickly, etc.) and implement measures to protect minors and other vulnerable groups.