Blizzard has removed the option to purchase loot boxes in Overwatch due to pressure from the Belgian Gaming Commission.
A report by the BGC, subsequently backed up by the Belgian Ministry of Justice, declared that loot boxes are considered gambling.
Blizzard disagreed with the decision, though they are complying with the findings and the option to purchase loot boxes will be removed soon.
Belgian Overwatch players will still be able to unlock loot boxes through gameplay.
Loot boxes in gaming have caused controversy since their introduction, since they operate similar to a slot machine and are available to players of all ages.
The BGC suggested regulations on games that include the boxes instead of their outright removal.
According to Games Industry, the suggestions included age verification for currency purchases in stores and online, a ban from minors playing games with loot boxes and a certified label the would alert customers if a game features these mechanics.
One of the more important suggestions involved publishing the drop rates of loot boxes and the algorithm used to determine the random items must be visible to authorities.
This regulation would be similar to slot machines in the United States, where casino operators must follow a law that dictates how often their machines pay out.
Blizzard was forced to publish their drop rates to continue selling loot boxes in China and South Korea, though the rates apply for those regions only. They claimed the rates are universal in all regions, but that is not verified by a neutral party.
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Blizzard’s full statement on removing loot boxes is below.
In April 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission published a report that was endorsed by the Belgian Ministry of Justice in which they concluded that paid loot boxes in Overwatch are considered gambling under local law. 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. 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.
No matter what, we want to make sure that our players around the world have the best entertainment experience possible. 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.
These measures will be implemented shortly. We also remain open to further discussions with the Belgian Gaming Commission and Ministry of Justice on this topic.