Loot boxes. Some gamers are totally okay with them. It’s fun to risk a little bit of time, effort, or money, for a random reward. The majority, however, consider them the bane of the entire gaming industry. Things would heat up last year when games like Shadow of War, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and Destiny 2 would entangle in controversies with their loot box features. It led to various studies and stringent measures from Belgium and The Netherlands. The two Low Countries began to crack down on loot boxes in games. One such game declared in violation of the law was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO.
Belgium and The Netherlands have fairly strict gambling laws, as does most of Europe. Both nations are also very active when it comes to imposing regulations on games with any relation to gambling mechanics. When the controversies surrounding those aforementioned games became widespread, these two nations were at the forefront of protecting gamers and consumers from the in-game practice.
The Netherlands declared that four games were in violation of their gambling laws — Rocket League, PUBG, FIFA 18, and Dota 2. This was due to those games having obtainable items that can be traded in a marketplace. This would mean these items have a cash value in the real world, not just the virtual one. Belgium went one step further by considering loot boxes themselves as illegal, irrespective of having a marketplace. That meant even games such as Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was in violation of the country’s laws. It’s also worth noting that once “gambling” has been added as a connotation for any product or activity, it will undoubtedly tangle itself in red tape, legislature, and socio-political agendas.
Here’s the problem that CS:GO has — one of its major hooks is getting new skins for your guns from drops. These drops come from playing the game as random rewards. Opening them would also net random rewards with varying degrees of rarity. In turn, these items can be sold through the Steam marketplace. Even previously, players could third them via a third-party provider such as OPSkins which Valve has since ordered to cease and desist CS: GO trading operations.
It all becomes one big mess since these cosmetic skins provide additional replay value for CS:GO. It also becomes a means to earn a bit of cash on the side. There are certain skins that sell for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Because of the regulations, Valve had no choice but to comply by placing restrictions on players from these countries. In its recent update and blog post, the CS:GO team announced that players from both The Netherlands and Belgium will no longer be able to open containers (aka. loot boxes). How well will players from these nations receive these recent developments? Only time will tell. The big takeaway is that because CS:GO is already a mainstay of professional gaming, that professionalism means compliance with the law, no matter how much that interferes with Valve’s marketplace cut.
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