Popular games are violating Dutch gambling laws. They have elements in them which can be found in the gambling world, says the Gambling Authority
It's about the phenomenon loot boxes. Those are treasure chests players can buy with extra items in them, like clothing or weapons. Players who open the treasure chests don't know what they'll get beforehand. Those who want a rare item have to open a lot of treasure chests
The Dutch Gambling Authority investigated 10 popular games containing loot boxes. In 4 of the investigated games were digital rewards via external marketplaces available to buy in Euros.
Because the items can be traded they get an economic value. Players can earn money by getting a rare item. That's why these games violate the gambling laws.
"They're designed like gambling games are designed, with the feeling that you've almost won", says Marja Appelman, director of the Gambling Authority. "There are all kinds of sound effects and visual effects when you open a loot box. That gives you the tendency to keep playing".
The Gambling Authority has given the developer 8 weeks to modify their games. If they don't do that then the supervisor can impose fines or ban the sale of the games.
With the 6 other games the items from the loot boxes aren't trade-able and they thus don't violate gambling laws. Nevertheless does the Gambling Authority criticize these games. The opening of virtual boxes closely resembles gambling with a Slot Machine our Roulette.
Especially younger people are vulnerable to that, because their brains are still developing. They could get addicted to gambling easier at a later age. Game developers do nothing to protect younger people against themselves, the Gambling Authority concludes.
Game developers now have to take their own responsibility to protect children better, says the supervisor. "I call on all game developers to no longer make loot boxes accessible to children and to remove all addicting elements", says Appelman.
A box in the popular game Rocket League costs €1,49, for game developers loot boxes are a nice source of income
According to research bureau Juniper Research big companies will make an estimated €24billion on loot boxes this year. If there's regulation the market is estimated to grow to €40billion by 2022.
Other European countries are investigating loot boxes as well. "That is the subject gambling authorities across Europe are talking about", says Appelman. "From Scandinavia, Germany to Great Britain".
The Gambling Authority wants to band together with its European colleges to stop loot boxes.
TL;DR: the ability to sell the items from loot boxes violates the law.