Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-24 11:50am

That's where the difference between micro and macro transactions comes from. Microtransactions are designed to specifically abuse the human failure to accurately weigh numerous small transactions versus fewer large ones. My brother consistently says shit like "I'd get the slab relaid, but I can't afford the $2000." Meanwhile, he's spent well over a thousand dollars on some F2P P2W mobile game about ship battles.

Nothing is really going to stop him, but I also believe these games should be forced to give you a receipt (in-game) that says "You spent X dollars this month" with the lower portion showing what you've spent in previous months. But they are specifically setup to muddle your expenditures to the point, through multiple small transactions and psuedo-currency, you have no idea how much money you're spending. I don't think this is something we should be allowing kids under the age of 18 to do/learn. Even with parent permission, but I don't think it's possible to go that far.

Publishers really want to raise the price of games. They claim that development is getting more expensive, but it's only more expensive because they are spending more money primarily in the marketting areas. Microtransactions were coming to your $60 shovelware no matter what: they want more money. But lootboxes let them disguise gambling as content. Because you don't just save up $X or Y-points for a skin. You save up at the random chance to get the skin you're dieing to have.

If you pay $5 to buy that sweet sweet skin: it's yours. You're done.
If you pay $2 to roll the dice on that skin and don't get it: You're now fighting multiple human tendencies to not make another purchase.

MMOs like WoW take this RNG stuff as part of the core game mechanic (oddly enough, SWTOR dropped this and I find it's a good thing): kill a boss, random chance at random loot. It's shitty and panders to more base human desire, but you aren't swiping a credit card before each boss kill. You're paying for the game then for access to the server to buy into a gambling system. But the disconnect between the gamble and the transaction is an important one.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by houser2112 » 2018-04-24 11:57am

If forced, they will just implement them in such a way that there's a disconnect between the money and the gambling, like STO does it (Lockbox keys cost Zen, which you can either pay real money for, or trade time-gated dilithium that you earned in-game).

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-24 12:10pm

Casinos do the same thing (chips or coins you traded money to them for) and it doesn't protect them. All it does is, once again, give the player the feeling that they aren't spending real money. It's just a poker chip, not $1,000 cash. And casinos manage to be less shitty here since the point is that you trade their psuedo-curreny in for the real thing. And you're actually able to leave with more than your started with.

So, video game gambling is shittier than real gambling.

I would honestly ban children under the age of 18 the ability to buy pseudo-currencies. If they want their shinies, their parents have to spend $USD directly to buy their boxes. If they want to blow $100USD on 10 loot boxes for their little darling, whatever floats their boat.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by houser2112 » 2018-04-24 01:03pm

Yes, but the big difference is that you can acquire Zen in STO using only dilithium that you earned in the game. It will take you a long time to acquire enough to do anything useful with due to the time gating of refining dilithium from ore, but it can be done. Casinos may comp you with ancillary benefits like meals and rooms, but they generally don't give you money to gamble with.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-24 01:26pm

That's the same concept as Honor/Conquest points in a game like WoW. Or even just "gold" or "credits" in a single-player game. It's just intentionally nerfed in order to give you a taste in hopes you'll purchase some with cash because the option is available. WoW has this same thing going with their subscription coins. If you want some extra gold, you buy one for $20, and sell it on the Auction House for X gold. It's not really "gambling" in that sense. It's just in game currency you can buy with money.

That's banking on other "failings" of humanity. Namely our desire for progression. The same concept applies to shit like "Achievements" or just gaining levels, skill points, a better ship. You can't really legislate that, except maybe cash purchases on top of a base price, because you'd be legislating healthy human behavior as well. Like even my work at home, I finally got the boxes unpacked and have setup my work-room. Now I can start on the back patio. Once the patio is done, I can start on the decking. Each milestone in that process gives me a warm fuzzy. A sense of accomplishment.

Alternatively, I can just pay someone to do it. But even then, while I lack a sense of personal satisfaction when I pay someone to lay a concrete backporch, I feel good when I see that backporch. I accomplished something: something was invested, something was returned.

Now, imagine you could spend $20 to buy zen, and the amount you got could range from 0 to 1 million. That's your gambling. It's about highs and lows, rather than a level sense of progression. You get beat down on loss/low payout one after the other THEN YOU HIT BIG AND EVERYTHING IS GREAT. The game flashes BIG AND GOLD and yells LEGENDARY. And you're feeling like a million goddamn bucks. That's part of the gambling mentality. That's how they get you hooked.

And casinos will give you complimentary chips, even online ones. It isn't a given, but these people know their game. They identify (not always correctly, but they are good from what I've read) the types of people who will get a taste with their free chips and then buy their own.Even in something like MtG card games: if you go to the shows (at least when I bothered) you could easily score a few free packs off them. Businesses run promos like this all the time.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Vendetta » 2018-04-25 01:08pm

Update: Some loot boxes are now classed as gambling in Belgium. Overwatch, CS:GO, and FIFA 18 must remove lootboxes or developers face fines and criminal prosecution including up to five years in jail.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-25 01:25pm

...how the fuck do you put drops and lootboxes in a footy game, anyway? Take a fall and the other guy gets yellow carded and shits out a lootbox?
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Vendetta » 2018-04-25 01:52pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-25 01:25pm
...how the fuck do you put drops and lootboxes in a footy game, anyway? Take a fall and the other guy gets yellow carded and shits out a lootbox?
It's the FIFA Ultimate Team bit. You buy card packs that give you players, with better players being rarer.

It literally shits money, EA make half a billion a year off it.

That's why they love the lootbox and want every game to have them, because they know just how hard they can rinse your wallet.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-25 02:00pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-25 01:25pm
Take a fall and the other guy gets yellow carded and shits out a lootbox?
That would be a day 1 buy for me. And I don't even like KickDive.

More seriously:
In FIFA 18, the complaint is that it takes forever for players to unlock loot crates (player packs) in the game through natural play. This, of course, encourages players to simply buy the packs instead. However, the system is so random that you could spend literally hundreds of dollars and earn only a single top-tier player to add to your team. Those players are basically stat boosts, as their quality will help determine how well your team plays in the game. Additional earnings are based on victories which, of course, are more often earned by players with the better teams.
Remember when you would just cheat in sports games? Like Big Head mode or "Always on Fire?" First it was like "Pay me 50 bucks for a full team of Laimbeers!" Now that wasn't good enough so it's "Pay me $50 to the roll dice and possibly get a Laimbeer, but you probably won't."

Holy shit, does anyone else here remember Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball? I still don't even know who the fuck Bill Laimbeer is! But I had 5 of him on my team!

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Steel » 2018-04-25 05:34pm

Vendetta wrote:
2018-04-25 01:08pm
Update: Some loot boxes are now classed as gambling in Belgium. Overwatch, CS:GO, and FIFA 18 must remove lootboxes or developers face fines and criminal prosecution including up to five years in jail.
This is a great decision, I hope to see it enforced. Interesting that they included Overwatch, when my understanding was that it is cosmetic only and non transferrable, so this looks like they are going after the broadest possible standard of lootboxes as gambling. CS:GO with its economy of real money sales and actual full-on self-described item gambling sites was a no brainer.

The fine is up to EUR 800k, doubled if minors are involved, so EUR 1.6m. Given the total revenue from lootboxes I doubt that they would remove them on the basis of this fine, as it is just a small tax on their overall profits. The 5 years in jail, however, should be quite an incentive. I would be amazed if we do see someone in prison, and hopefully not just an intern who gets thrown under the bus for being the one made to actually write "enableMicrotransactions = true".
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Vendetta » 2018-04-25 05:44pm

Their decision is actually based on the visual presentation of the lootboxes, which incentivise the user to buy more in the same way slot machines and other automated gambling like fixed odds betting terminals do..

Also, "Eat a fine, continue operating as normal" isn't going to work, because they would be immediately in breach of the law again by continuing to operate, so they'd just keep getting fined over and over again (and the Belgian government could quite possibly use the European courts to simply hoover up any money the involved companies make in Europe to pay those fines).

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-04-25 11:44pm

Vendetta wrote:
2018-04-25 01:08pm
Update: Some loot boxes are now classed as gambling in Belgium. Overwatch, CS:GO, and FIFA 18 must remove lootboxes or developers face fines and criminal prosecution including up to five years in jail.
More progress, and we are still only looking at enforcement of existing law. No new laws yet. Are any lootboxes left out ?

CS:GO lootboxes produce tradeable stuff, which is why they are illegal in the Netherlands. Overwatch lootboxes produce a consolation currency that allows you to get exactly what you want. I'm not sure what FIFA uses. The two other types of lootboxes:
- Pure RNG lootboxes, with no tradeable contents.
- Lootboxes that won't drop stuff you already have.
Does FIFA fall into either of those categories ?
Steel wrote:
2018-04-24 03:28am
How do you ban lootbox keys, but not buying a weapon that kills enemies (as most games have RNG in combat and loot drops in normal play)?
The lootbox is a repeatable, randomized purchase.

The pay to win item is a purchase that is not randomized. Everyone who makes the purchase gets the exact same stuff.
The ESA are supposed to be the ones regulating the scumbag game companies, so them being morons is entirely consistent.
The ESA are the gaming industries lobbying organization. They exist to prevent anyone regulating games. ESA ratings were created to convince the US government that it didn't need to impose its own rating system. One that would make selling certain games to minors illegal.

Also remember that the ESA only dropped support for SOPA after it had been defeated. They have always been on the side of the big publishers.
In summary, I'm not saying spotting lootboxes is difficult for players, but any regulation must be well crafted and unambiguous or it will fail to achieve the desired effects.
Unambiguous is easy. Target any repeatable transaction with randomised results. Don't care about anything existing between the paying of money and the rolls on the loot table. Don't care about the types of stuff produced.

Well, unless lootboxes are already illegal. Then countries just need to enforce the law.
houser2112 wrote:
2018-04-24 01:03pm
Yes, but the big difference is that you can acquire Zen in STO using only dilithium that you earned in the game. It will take you a long time to acquire enough to do anything useful with due to the time gating of refining dilithium from ore, but it can be done.
That changes nothing. The ability to purchase new rolls against the loot table is what regulation will be concerned with. It shouldn't matter if there are other ways to roll on the same table.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-04-26 01:38am

How many of you will now be asking "Is this game for sale in Belgium ?" before purchasing a game ?

I know I will.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by houser2112 » 2018-04-26 08:16am

What about Belgians who already own the game? Are they going to be prevented from playing if they login from a Belgian IP?

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-26 03:31pm

I guess technically they could just not allow anyone on a Belgium IP or Belgium billing address to purchase loot boxes. But I haven't read the relevant legislation. This also begs the question if it's considered gambling: who is at fault if a Belgian uses a VPN and/or gift cards (and the like) to continue to use the system? The publisher, player, or both?

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Crazedwraith » 2018-04-26 03:44pm

I would assume its like pirated goods. It's not criminal to buy/own pirated goods afaik its just illegal to make/sell them.
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-04-27 12:30am

houser2112 wrote:
2018-04-26 08:16am
What about Belgians who already own the game? Are they going to be prevented from playing if they login from a Belgian IP?
Blocking people from playing will probably run into consumer protection laws.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-04-27 04:12am

Honestly if the "standard" for what is and isn't gambling is visual it really doesn't address the main issue here and the fix probably won't actually remove loot boxes so much as those companies change them to fit the guidelines set by the belgian goverment with no difference in the gameplay.

If you ask me this reads more like publicity stunt then effective law, admitbly I've not read the relevant legislation so I could be wrong but it the visual (thus fairly simple to "fix") problem seems to me more like "look we did something don't get mad" type of gesture then an actual serious attempt at fixing the problem.
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-04-28 01:46am

Not exactly. The visual elements are what make lootboxes addicting. Reduce that and lootboxes become less profitable. Plus the back and forth to find the most addictive animations that are legally allowed has its own cost on top of the risk of going over the line and being punished.
If you ask me this reads more like publicity stunt then effective law, admitbly I've not read the relevant legislation so I could be wrong but it the visual (thus fairly simple to "fix") problem seems to me more like "look we did something don't get mad" type of gesture then an actual serious attempt at fixing the problem.
They are limited to applying existing law to a situation that wasn't foreseen when the law was written.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-04-28 11:03am

The way I see it is that problem with lootboxes is twohold, first you got the visual element trying to convince you to buy, but second you got the non-visual parts of the gameplay doing the same. What caused the arguing about lootboxes wasn't a visual element after all but a gameplay one, more accurately that Battleground II lootboxes were "pay to win". To ignore one side of the problem in favor of "mission accomplished" is folly. Also our goal shouldn't be to intentionally trigger a unrecoverble collapse of the gaming industry, not if we want there to be games in the future.
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by SCRawl » 2018-04-28 12:20pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-04-28 11:03am
Also our goal shouldn't be to intentionally trigger a unrecoverble collapse of the gaming industry, not if we want there to be games in the future.
Shouldn't the goal be something like "if your business model depends heavily on gambling, which these loot boxes clearly are, then you have to change your business model." People want to play games, so they'll pay to play them. Some people will pay for additional content. Set the prices accordingly, so that an acceptable return on investment is obtained, and all is well. If that's really too much to ask, then governments won't ask, they'll tell, and Belgium is just the first to try.

Admittedly, I'm no hardcore gamer, just an interested observer.
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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-04-28 01:01pm

I'll be going off into non-lootbox stuff, but I find it's still relevant.

There's nothing about restricting lootboxes that could possibly lead to a crash, except out of publishers that have dove headfirst into them and have no contingencies. And honestly, I can't find myself giving two shits here.

Nintendo does lootbox shit on their F2P (I think they call it Free to Start) mobile garbage. But I can't recall a single Nintendo proper game on any console they own even having microtransactions. DLC, yea. Even some of their retro shit is way overpriced, but that's not the same thing. This is an entire company and part of the Big 3 (+ Sony and Microsoft, though the Xbox is looking to be DOA in the near(er) future). Nintendo does so well, ANY speedbump they hit is considered to be the "Death of Nintendo." But they keep coming back, even though they really never fell.

Sony and Microsoft actually don't make that many games. This is an important thing to remember. You have to look at the way they make their money.

Blizzard has gone in pretty heavy, but they could easily retransition. They shit Overwatch, a $50 game, out of unused assets from the failed Titan. If Farcry 5 couldn't make a profit with their silver bars, that's their problem. Square lost money (originally) on the new Tomb Raider due to an out of control budget and not hitting their sales goal, but I also recall their out of control budget was marketing related anyway. Beth continues to try and scrape money out of Skyrim buy selling mods as DLC on a game that made them all the money and still continues to do so. Being able to sell Skyrim 64-bit is just free money since the WHOLE PROJECT came out of them learning to code (and porting the engine as part of the process) for 64-bit systems.

Basically, most of these costs come already as being "big dogs" in the industry. And porting Skyrim to 64-bit ALSO let them easily rehash assets from old Fallout games to make Fallout 4. That's really just a specific example of how "sequels" work. Like with FIFA and Madden shit: these games cost so little (comparatively) to make. Open world games are harder here since there's just more time involved in creating the world and dealing with voice-work, etc.

At some point, you have to wonder if the push into lootboxes is more about making MORE money to pay the guys they DON'T just shitcan after a release. Like, you never hear that EA laid off a bunch of business majors when SWTOR shit the bed.

There's more than enough indie shit or AAA done right to make this little more than an speedbump. And the people likely to lose their jobs are the psychologists and executives. Or they are forced to go back to selling reskins for $8. Whatever, if the current AAA market actually WAS in danger of crashing over this, I wouldn't cry.

It's literally never been easier or cheaper to make a video game than it is today. If these publishers left a void, it would be filled quite quickly. I mean, imagine valve and Blizzard actually went back to making fucking video games. It will never happen, but it's nice to think someone could force them. Or at least the guys up top.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-04-29 03:14am

Lord Revan wrote:
2018-04-28 11:03am
The way I see it is that problem with lootboxes is twohold, first you got the visual element trying to convince you to buy, but second you got the non-visual parts of the gameplay doing the same.
Gambling regulators can only use existing law. If the law only gives them the power to go after the audio-visual elements, that's all they can go after right now. To go further, they have to get the law changed. Remember that the Netherlands Gaming Authority looked at 10 lootbox games. They found 4 illegal, but their study made it clear that they weren't happy about the other 6.

Maybe banning the auto-visual elements is enough to kill lootboxes. It's possible that removing them makes more people see just how crappy they really are. If that stops enough lootbox sales, game companies will switch to other microtransactions. If not, changing the law remains an option.
Also our goal shouldn't be to intentionally trigger a unrecoverble collapse of the gaming industry, not if we want there to be games in the future.
Why do you think that the complete removal of lootboxes would cause a collapse ?

I've seen no evidence that games need lootboxes to remain profitable. Do you have any evidence ?

What I do know is that EA told investors* that turning off lootboxes in BF2 would not have a "a material impact" on the games earnings. Which I think means that they expected it to be profitable from game sales alone.

*One of the few groups of people EA could get in trouble for lying to.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-05-03 10:29am

Honestly, the industry might need another big crash, if only to provide some incentive to change some bad habits that can't be regulated by law since they aren't actually illegal.

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Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2018-05-04 12:36am

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-05-03 10:29am
Honestly, the industry might need another big crash, if only to provide some incentive to change some bad habits that can't be regulated by law since they aren't actually illegal.
You're hoping that the industry crashes (unlikely). Then hoping that it will recover in a way you like, instead of the companies that survive (likely those making phone games) not changing their behaviour. Do you really think that is a better plan than changing the law ?

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