EA withdraws FIFA points in Belgium after pressure from Gaming Commission
Electronic Arts (EA) has announced it is to withdraw FIFA points from its games in Belgium after pressure from the Belgium Gaming Commission. FIFA points are in-game points that are bought with real money that can be used in FIFA Ultimate Team.
The change will be implemented on 31 January and brings to an end a long running dispute between EA and Belgian authorities over their in-game transactions.
Belgium declared loot boxes to be a form of gambling in April 2018 and the Gaming Commission set their sights on three games in particular. The Commission claimed that loot-boxes or in-game transactions in FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive violated domestic gambling laws, and demanded the publishers remove them from their games in Belgium.
Publishers obliged and removed the loot boxes from the games. Except for EA, who were public in their view that FIFA Points constitute neither a loot box nor gambling.
However, the Commission didn’t let the issue lie. In September 2018, the Commission referred the case to the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office, who began a criminal investigation into EA.
It seems that negotiations have been on-going behind closed doors and EA has caved in to the pressure exerted from Belgian authorities.
In a statement published on their website, EA said:
After further discussions with the Belgian authorities, we have decided to stop offering FIFA Points for sale in Belgium. We apologise to our players in Belgium for any inconvenience caused by this change.–Statement, Electronic Arts
EA maintains that loot boxes are not gambling
Few can agree whether loot boxes constitute gambling. Belgium are the only country to officially class some loot boxes as gambling, while the debate rages on in most countries.
The UK Gambling Commission has stated that it does not believe loot boxes are gambling, but it is currently consulting on the link between video games and gambling, together with the government.
EA certainly don’t agree that FIFA Points are a form of gambling. Their statement continued:
We seek to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to our players in all our games. In addition to providing players options in how they play, we include pack probabilities in our games for the transparency players want to make informed content choices. While we are taking this action, we do not agree with Belgian authorities’ interpretation of the law, and we will continue to seek more clarity on the matter as we go forward–Statement, Electronic Arts