The Belgian Gaming Commission has declared that loot in video games are gamblingand therefore are illegal.
This follows an investigation into the monetisation mechanic in the wake of Star Wars Battlefront II's, um, troubled launch. From this, the body has declared that loot boxes are gambling given that there is: "a game element, a bet can lead to profit or loss and chance has a role in the game".
The organisation looked at the aforementioned title from a galaxy far, far away, as well as FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. All the above aside from Battlefront II were found to have loot boxes that constitute a game of chance, and therefore are gambling. Battlefront II only escaped because EA and developer DICE made changes to the game post-launch.
The Belgian Gaming Authority has said that games with paid loot boxes are in violation of the country's law and therefore can be dealt with as a criminal matter. Said loot boxes are to be removed or the publishers will face a €800,000 fine or a prison sentence of five years.
Where children are involved, these punishments will be doubled.
"Mixing games and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for mental health," Justice Minister Koen Geens said, via Google Translate.
"We have already taken numerous measures to protect both minors and adults against the influence of, among other things, gambling advertising. That is why we must also ensure that children and adults are not confronted with games of chance when they are looking for fun in a video game. "
Director of the Gaming Commission Peter Naessens added: "Paying loot boxes are not an innocent part of video games that present themselves as games of skill. Players are tempted and misled, and none of the protective measures for gambling is applied. Now that it is clear that children and vulnerable people in particular are exposed to them unprotected, game manufacturers but also parties such as FIFA, for example, are called upon to call a halt to this practice."
This whole controversy kicked off after more aggressive-than-normal loot boxes and monetisation options were rolled out into games such as Star Wars: Battlefront II, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Forza Motorsport 7.
These were seen as a manipulative and exploitative practice and - perhaps to Star Wars' cultural status - the controversy soon erupted beyond the games sphere, with gambling bodies and politicians around the globe vowing to look into them.
No doubt publishers and trade bodies will refute video games' status as gambling in some countries, as Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two did last year.
Still, some research outlets believe that loot boxes and skin gambling will be raking in $50bn by 2022.