Game developer EA is reportedly facing a criminal investigation in Belgium over the loot boxes featured in FIFA 19.
The Belgian government declared loot boxes, rewards in video games that contain items hidden from view until after they have been won or purchased, to be a form of gambling earlier this year and instructed games developers to remove loot boxes from their games in the country.
EA, however, has refused to modify FIFA 19’s randomised card pack loot boxes in accordance to the new law and they’re now facing the repercussions.
According to Belgium publication Metro, the large video game developer, who publishes The Sims, Star Wars Battlefront, Battlefield and various sports simulation games, are facing a criminal investigation by the Brussels public prosecutor’s office and if they decide to prosecute, EA will be taken to court.
In April, Belgium’s Gaming Commission ruled that loot boxes were an “illegal game of chance” and subject to the country’s gambling laws. Failure to adhere to the laws, such as adhering that minors are unable to access gambling elements within a game, is illegal.
In response, an EA spokesperson said: “We strongly believe that our games are developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world, and take these responsibilities very seriously. We care deeply that our players are having a fun and fair experience in all of our games, and take great care to ensure each game is marketed responsibly, including in compliance with regional rating standards.”
They added: “We welcome the dialogue with Minister Greens on these topics, as we do not agree that our games can be considered as any form of gambling.
Meanwhile, game developers Blizzard, Valve and 2K Games all disabled loot boxes from their games in the country.
There’s been a recent uproar over loot boxes in video games. Earlier this month, the Pan European Game Information (Pegi) announced that physical copies of video games will, from Christmas, display a warning icon on their packaging under a new ruling.
UK gambling support charity BeGambleAware has also spoken out against loot boxes, claiming last month that more than one in ten British children are “effectively gambling” due to video game loot boxes.