Video game publisher Electronic Arts is in trouble with the Belgium government for its use of loot boxes in the “FIFA” franchise, according to the Dutch paper Metro.
The Brussels public prosecutor’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the company, Metro reports. Earlier this year, the Belgian Gaming Commission decided many forms of loot boxes in video games are illegal gambling because players don’t exactly know what virtual items they’re getting when they buy them. The BGC suggested games with loot boxes should include the odds of winning and a clear warning label that they contain gambling. Publishers who don’t comply with the new law could potentially face criminal prosecution.
While companies like Valve and 2K Games have already complied, EA apparently has not. People can still buy loot boxes in “FIFA 18,” Metro said, and “FIFA 19” will have them as well when it launches later this month.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson said during an earnings call in May his company doesn’t believe loot boxes are a form of illegal gambling because players always get a specific number of items in each box, and those items can’t be traded or sold for real-world money in-game. The publisher is going to “push forward” with the practice, he added.
“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,” Wilson said. “And we don’t believe that ‘FIFA Ultimate Team’ – all loot boxes are gambling.”
Variety reached out to EA about Belgium’s criminal investigation, but it did not immediately respond.