The Netherlands moves toward an outright loot box ban

Flag of the Netherlands
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Representatives of six political parties in the Netherlands have filed a motion calling for more stringent regulation of loot boxes in videogames, and possibly even an outright ban. The motion (via Google Translate) describes loot boxes as "addictive," and says that they're a form of gambling that are designed to manipulate children into spending money.

The motion follows several months behind a Netherlands appeals court ruling that overturned a €10 million ($11 million) fine levied against Electronic Arts over FIFA Ultimate Team packs. The Netherlands Gaming Authority had imposed the fine in 2019 after EA refused to modify FUT loot boxes to comply with the country's gambling laws; EA appealed the decision and, eventually, won the case.

That case appears to have prompted this motion, at least in part: It doesn't name Electronic Arts or FIFA specifically but notes that the Netherlands Gaming Authority has previously attempted to regulate loot boxes, but was ruled against by the Council of State. So, since by a legal definition loot boxes are not gambling and thus do not fall within the purview of the Gaming Authority, the goal of the motion is to "amend the law" where necessary in order to enable a ban on loot boxes.

The motion pulls no punches, saying that loot boxes are "addictive and can burden families with unexpected bills ... with disruptive consequences." It also notes that consumer associations from 18 European nations are also seeking effective regulation of loot boxes, and points out that Belgium has already banned loot boxes outright.

Their precise legal standing is less clearly defined in the Netherlands. The FUT Pack ruling in EA's favor would appear to give loot boxes a green light, yet Blizzard recently opted against releasing the free-to-play Diablo Immortal in the Netherlands because of "current operating conditions" in the country. It's possible that Blizzard anticipated this response to the ruling and decided that it just didn't need the aggravation of putting Diablo Imortal out and then having to modify or remove it a year down the road.

While it's not necessarily assured that it will result in an outright ban on loot boxes, it seems very likely that this motion will pass. It has the backing of six of the country's political parties—Christian Democratic Appeal, Christian Union, People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, Socialist Party, Democrats 66, and GreenLeft—whose members collectively represent 94 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, and 44 of 75 seats in the Senate.

Thanks, Resetera.

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.