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    Have loot boxes been ruled offside?

  • NL EN
  • Now that we (read: the Dutch team) are conspicuous by our absence, many football fans may be seeking consolation by playing FIFA 18. In the FIFA Ultimate Team (‘FUT’) game mode, opening FUT packs lets a player acquire players for his or her team. This is comparable to the popular Panini football cards, except that here you can then play FUT with the players you get from these packs. The better the player, the rarer the card.

    You can buy the FUT packs by saving tokens in the game. You get tokens by playing a match, for instance. But there is a quicker way: by buying FIFA points with actual euros. These FIFA points also let you buy packs. Want to try getting Neymar or star player Cristiano Ronaldo in a FUT pack during the World Cup? Soon this may no longer be possible in the Netherlands. 

    On Thursday 19 April the Dutch Gaming Authority (‘KA’) ruled that some loot boxes (you can find an explanation of loot boxes in one of my earlier blogs) are contrary to the country’s Gaming Act (‘WOK’). These are the loot boxes whose contents can be traded, and which therefore represent an economic value. 

    From 20 June 2018 the KA will actually check whether the producers of games containing illegal loot boxes have changed their policies on such boxes to ensure that they are no longer in conflict with the WOK. Non-compliant game-box producers otherwise risk huge fines which could reach up to 10% of their worldwide sales. If just the fine itself is not a deterrent, criminal prosecution may be initiated and the game may be banned in the Netherlands. 

    From 19 June 2018, Valve, which produces the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive among others, has disabled the ability to trade items for all Dutch users of its Steam platform. The Valve games are playable through Steam, and items could be traded until 19 June 2018. However Valve has stated explicitly that it hopes to reach an alternative solution in consultation with the KA. What is notable is Valve’s belief that while the KA has indicated that game producers must introduce modifications, it leaves open the question of exactly what adjustments it considers necessary. Reference is only made to the tradability of the contents of the loot boxes. Valve thus regarded eliminating tradability as the only solution. I’m curious to see whether the parties can reach a workable compromise. 

    Dutch broadcaster NOS noted however that other game producers have not yet taken any measures. They simply seem to be letting it happen. A striking detail is that in its ‘Game over for the loot boxes’ report, the NOS misinterprets the nuance in its explanation. Buying loot boxes online is in fact allowed, but the contents may not be tradable. This is a fundamental difference. 

    It remains to be seen whether the KA will bare its teeth, will go on the defensive, or will throw in the towel. It has however indicated that enforcement processes can sometimes take a great deal of time. So until then you’re free to try your utmost to get Cristiano from a pack. Even though your chances are slim... If you’d like to know more, then look for the piece one player wrote after opening some 3,800 euros-worth of packs.