Belgium could prosecute EA over failure to remove loot boxes

Belgian authorities have reportedly begun a criminal investigation into Electronic Arts (EA) after the firm has failed to remove loot boxes from its FIFA 18 and 19 games.

A Playstation controller

EA is reportedly under investigation due to Ultimate Team in its FIFA franchise. © Pexels.

Belgian publication the Metro has reported that the Belgian Gaming Commission has referred the case to the Brussels public prosecutor’s office, who have begun a criminal investigation into EA. Should the office decide to prosecute, then the two will meet in court.

Belgium ruled in April that loot boxes in three games violated the country’s gambling laws and were therefore illegal. The Belgian Gaming Commission demanded that the publishers of FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive remove loot boxes from their games or face criminal charges.

Since then, Blizzard, Valve, and 2kGames have all removed loot boxes from their games in the country. However, EA hasn’t.

In fact, EA doesn’t appear at all like it is to do so. During a presentation of its Q4 2018 financial results, executives at EA stated that they do not consider FIFA Ultimate Team – the game’s version of a loot box – gambling and therefore are not planning to remove the feature.

Speaking to investors, Andrew Wilson, CEO at EA, said:

As you might imagine, we’re working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, many of whom we’ve been working with for some time and have evaluated and established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling. And we don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team – all loot boxes are gambling.Andrew Wilson, CEO at Electronic Arts

Wilson cites the facts that players know how many items they will receive from an Ultimate Team pack and that the items cannot be cashed out in a virtual or actual currency.

Belgium’s Gaming Commission disagrees. With Ultimate Team a game of chance, the Commission argues that players do not know what they will receive when making a purchase.

With EA failing to follow the Commission’s request made in April to remove the loot boxes, the prosecutor’s office will now decide whether the case is to go to court.

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