In a recent forum announcement, Blizzard has revealed that they’ve made some major changes to Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm. These games will no longer feature loot boxes in certain countries thanks to ongoing legislative pressure over gambling mechanics. The two countries in particular, Belgium and the Netherlands, made regulatory pressure and impending legal action quite clear over the last few months. The Dutch pushed pretty hard against the predatory practices employed by loot boxes, while Belgium and other countries joined in. Blizzard has made attempts to appeal or dissent, but has ultimately taken the safer option and removed the microtransactions from their games in these countries.
For anyone not paying attention, these kinds of decisions were a longtime coming. Other countries like Germany and the United States have also made moves against the mechanics. The whole kerfuffle started after Electronic Arts royally screwed progression in Star Wars Battlefront II in favor of greedy monetization. And though that decision, and other loot box systems like those in Shadow of War were eventually reversed, the damage has been done.
And don’t worry if you live in these areas, your existing purchases are still in tact. And you can still earn loot boxes as rewards for playing well or leveling up. It’s just that you won’t be able to purchase them directly for real money until further notice.
Here’s the relevant section of the forum announcement:
In April 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission published a report that was endorsed by the Belgian Ministry of Justice in which they concluded that paid loot boxes in Overwatch are considered gambling under local law. 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.
So whatever your personal feelings on loot boxes are, it seems pretty clear what the general mentality is from a governmental perspective. It does remain to be seen if other countries jump on the bandwagon of calling loot boxes gambling, but if I were a betting man, I’d say that moment is fast-approaching.