Loot Box Debate Continues as Valve Returns $15K to Austrian Gamer

Posted on: December 19, 2023, 09:44h. 

Last updated on: December 19, 2023, 10:42h.

In another blow to video games and loot boxes, the Austrian Press Agency reports that an Austrian court has ruled against video game developer Valve. The company behind the popular Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) franchise must now refund €14,096.58 (US$15,426) to a player who spent the money on in-game weapon cases, which are considered a form of loot box.

A rendition of the CS:GO Revolution loot box
A rendition of the CS:GO Revolution loot box. The game’s developer, Valve, has been ordered to reimburse an Austrian gamer more than $15K after a court ruled loot boxes amount to gambling. (Image: Dot Esports)

Loot boxes are virtual containers that players can purchase in games, with the contents being determined randomly. Another controversial type of in-game purchase option is the player pack in FIFA soccer games, which has also come under fire.

The case against Valve was brought by Padronus, a German law firm specializing in loot box litigation, on behalf of the plaintiff, an anonymous CS:GO player. The plaintiff argued that Valve’s loot boxes violated Austrian gambling laws, which require that all gambling activities be licensed by the government.

Valve doesn’t have a gambling license in Austria, and the court ruled that the loot box transactions between Valve and the plaintiff were therefore invalid. As a result, the plaintiff is entitled to a refund of the money he spent on the purchases.

Loot Boxes Lose Ground

This ruling is a major victory for players who have been concerned about the addictive nature of loot boxes and their potential to harm minors. Loot boxes have been criticized for their ability to prey on players’ gambling instincts, while encouraging them to spend excessive amounts of money on virtual goods. In recent years, there has been growing pressure on game developers to regulate or even ban loot boxes.

Valve isn’t the only developer to have been the subject of a legal dispute in Austria. EA Games and Sony have already been down this road over Ultimate Team player packs in FIFA 23.

The Austrian court’s decision is likely to have a ripple effect across Europe, as other countries are also considering how to regulate loot boxes. In some countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, loot boxes have already been banned. The European Union is also considering adopting common regulations for loot boxes across all member states.

The ruling against Valve is a signal that the gaming industry must take steps to address the concerns about loot boxes. Game developers need to be transparent about the odds of winning valuable items in loot boxes.

Valve hasn’t yet commented on the court’s ruling, and the company has the right to appeal the decision. However, the ruling is a significant setback for Valve, and it’s likely the company will face further legal challenges in the future.

Austria Working on Loot Box Legislation

Concerns about the detrimental effects of in-game purchases and loot boxes on minors have intensified in Austria. This has prompted the ruling coalition of the Austrian People’s Party and the Greens party to express their disapproval of these practices.

Their stance aligns with the support received from the NEOS political party. Together, the three parties are urging the Federal Minister for Consumer Protection to conduct a comprehensive investigation to fully grasp the implications of these elements.

Not all parties share the same perspective, however. The Freedom Party of Austria (FPO, for its German acronym) opposes the initiative and is advocating for more decisive action. It has specifically proposed a complete ban on loot boxes to curb their potential influence as a form of gambling.

While the Greens acknowledge the addictive nature of loot boxes and their potential harm to youth in the country, it wants to maintain a balanced approach. The party has stressed the importance of gathering comprehensive data to ensure that any measures taken are proportionate and effective in addressing the identified concerns.