It seems like only yesterday that I was discussing the multibillion-dollar industry of in-game gambling in video games. Where video game developers and related companies are pulling down around $30 billion a year, that number is set to increase to around $50 billion within four years. It’s an amazing amount of money generated from something simple as a virtual hammer or an eye patch. This is probably why the industry is being dissected by lawmakers in several countries, with the Netherlands now raising an eyebrow at four video games in particular.
The Dutch Gambling Authority (DGA) reviewed 10 video games that contain loot boxes, and determined that four were in possible violation of gambling laws. The games were chosen for their popularity on an unidentified platform “that streams videos of games and players.” More than likely, that platform is Twitch, used by about 2 million gamers daily. The names of the four were not released, since the DGA admitted that it hasn’t yet determined which laws were broken, but ordered them to change the games within eight weeks or they would be looking at fines of up to €820,000 (just over $1 million).
Officials surmised that, since there is a gambling component to the loot boxes, the games could result in gambling addiction and, therefore, the developers are required to be treated as casinos, which require a license to operate. The DGA began looking into the video games after a rapid increase in popularity over the past several months.
The loot box itself doesn’t break Dutch laws. However, Marja Appelman, director of the DGA, told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, “… if the items in such a loot box can be traded outside the game, we speak of a gambling game for which you need a permit in the Netherlands and have to take measures to protect consumers against themselves.”
Video game developers find themselves in a bit of a Catch-22. They’re being told that they need a gambling license to offer the games with loot boxes, but there currently is no such license being offered. This could change at some point, though, as the Dutch Senate is currently considering a bill that would make an amendment to gambling laws.
Researchers with the DGA have determined that loot boxes could possibly be addictive, but didn’t come out and specifically make the connection. Appelman pointed out that, “In terms of design and mechanisms, [loot boxes] are comparable to slot machines and roulette. However, there are no indications that loot boxes are being opened on a large scale by people who have gambling addictions or problems.”