Players of Overwatch (opens in new tab) and Heroes of the Storm (opens in new tab) in Belgium will no longer be able to pay real-world money for loot boxes, Blizzard has confirmed. The announcement follows Belgium’s declaration (opens in new tab) in April that loot boxes are, legally speaking, gambling. You can read the post in full over on the Blizzard forums (opens in new tab). In part, it reads:
“While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law. As a result, we have no choice but to implement measures that will prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money and gems. … While players in Belgium will no longer be able to purchase paid loot boxes in Overwatch and loot chests in Heroes of the Storm, they’ll still be able to earn them by playing the games, and they’ll still have access to all in-game content.”
Interestingly, Blizzard’s Warcraft-themed card game, Hearthstone, is not mentioned, despite it also selling randomized packs of digital goods for real-world money. While the reason for this isn’t spelled out, it could be that Hearthstone, like other collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering and the Pokemon Trading Card Game, only sells cards in its card packs, ie. even though the perceived value could vary, you still know that every time you buy a pack, you’re getting a certain number of cards, ergo you know what you’re buying. That was one argument used to defend (opens in new tab) such card games in the ’90s anyway.
In any case, Blizzard is one of the first companies to publicly respond to Belgium’s ultimatum, and loot boxes (at least those paid for with real-world money) are going away. The conversation around this business model may have died down in recent months, but some players are just now feeling the repercussions.
Blizzard wasn’t the only company affected by Belgium’s stance on loot boxes. EA has pushed back (opens in new tab), saying it intends to keep the contentious Ultimate Team feature in future FIFA releases, even though Belgium found FIFA 18 (opens in new tab) to be in violation of gambling law.