Steam users in the Netherlands are no longer able to trade items or marketplace purchases, in response to a threat of prosecution.
Valve removed the features for “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “DOTA 2” items on Tuesday after the Dutch government issued an ultimatum to prosecute if the digital games distributor did not “implement a remedy” by the government’s deadline of June 20, according to a statement from Valve.
There was debate in the Netherlands about whether loot boxes violate gambling law in months prior, and the government has now made an official declaration which was submitted to Valve in the Study into Loot Boxes.
“Loot boxes contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are transferable,” the study states. “Loot boxes do not contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are not transferable.”
In the Netherlands, popular games with loot boxes such as “Counter-Strike” and “DOTA 2” have resulted in players purchasing loot boxes and then trading the contents, sometimes for actual currency, which has led the government to rule the practice gambling. Some of the rarer items, including skins for weapons in “Counter-Strike,” were trading for the equivalent of hundreds, at times even thousands, of U.S. dollars.
Loot boxes, which players can purchase with in-game or real world dollars, provide the purchaser with random contents, usually extra cosmetic features or in-game boosters. The nature of loot boxes and their high degree of chance have been compared to gambling, as they can encourage compulsion in players eager to keep purchasing to get better rewards.
This has led some governments to intervene. In May, the Belgian Gaming Commission declared loot boxes gambling, but has not yet pursued any prosecution.
Under pressure to find a solution, Valve’s decision to remove the item trading features entirely has frustrated a number of Dutch users, according to a Reddit thread. However, Valve did note in their release that after engaging with the Dutch government, they may be able to “find a solution that is less inconvenient.”