Nintendo pulls games from Belgian market over gambling concerns

Nintendo pulls games from Belgian market over gambling concerns
Video game giant Nintendo has announced that a number of its games will soon not be available on the Belgian market due to Belgian legislation regarding in-game lootboxes. Lootboxes are randomized digital "chests" prevalent in videogame business models. In order to recover certain items or skills, a player can buy a lootbox, without knowing what it contains, leaving the outcome up to chance. 

In Belgium, the Gambling Commission concluded in 2018 that such practices fall within the scope of gambling and that measures should, therefore, be applied to protect users, especially if they are minors.

In its report, the committee made a series of recommendations to video game publishers, to be followed under penalty of criminal prosecution. For example, the chances of winning the different items must be made clear, as well as the fact that some lootboxes cannot benefit a player. It was also required that publishers specify that the game includes a gambling activity.

Various publishers have therefore adapted, including Overwatch creator Blizzard, either by removing or modifying lootboxes in Belgium.

The only major publisher to have taken a radical solution to pull games from the Belgian market is Nintendo.

The change will first affect the mobile games Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes, which will be unavailable in Belgium as of August 27, 2019. The Japanese company mentioned "the current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models," as the reason for the move. 

"In addition, future Nintendo titles using similar monetization methods will not be launched in Belgium," said the company. However, it has not been made clear which games this will be.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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