Electronic Arts says loot boxes aren't gambling

The Great Loot Box Fire of '17 received an additional slosh of gasoline yesterday when Belgium announced that its Gaming Commission, which regulates gambling in the country, had begun an investigation into whether loot boxes in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Overwatch constitute a form of gambling. The consequences of a "yes" decision are potentially enormous, which is why it's not at all surprising that Electronic Arts says "nuh uh." 

"Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront 2 are not gambling," the company said in a statement sent to Gamespot. "A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game."   

The final sentence in that statement is the real crux of the argument: Unlike lottery tickets, for example, where the great likelihood is that you'll end up with nothing, money spent on loot crates will, without exception, get you content that can be used in-game. So the question is whether the randomness of loot box contents is sufficient to put it over the line into gambling—and if so, what other kinds of purchasables that rely on similar "luck of the draw" might also fall under scrutiny? That's where things get interesting. 

Despite EA's protest, it appears that regulatory interest in the matter is growing: As reported by Nu.nl (via Eurogamer), the Netherlands has also launched its own investigation into whether loot boxes are a form of gambling. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.