The Netherlands Plans Total Ban on Video Game Loot Boxes

Posted on: July 6, 2023, 08:33h. 

Last updated on: July 6, 2023, 09:25h.

The status of video game loot boxes and whether they’re a form of gambling is no closer to a global standard. A potential ban on loot boxes and microtransactions in the Netherlands is a perfect example.

An example of a loot box that might appear in a video game
An example of a loot box that might appear in a video game. The Netherlands could join Belgium and other countries in banning the in-game microtransactions. (Image: Dreamstime)

In video games, a loot box is a consumable virtual item that can be redeemed to receive a randomized selection of further virtual items, or loot.

Last year, a court judge in the Netherlands ruled that microtransactions were relatively benign. Since they don’t have any real-world value outside their respective games, they can’t be considered a game of chance.

However, according to new information that surfaced this week, the Dutch government is going to push for a complete loot box ban. It’s hoping to get the entire European Union (EU) to follow suit.

Loot Box Quandary Continues

The UK and Belgium have taken a strong position against loot boxes and other types of activity related to in-game microtransactions. The former has previously told game developers to pull back if they wanted to avoid new regulations. The latter implemented an outright ban.

Elsewhere, a court in Austria recently decided that Sony was on the hook in a legal fight pitting gamers against FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) packs. The packs allow gamers to buy in-game players to build their teams, but gamers don’t know what the packs include when they make their purchases. This, the judge said, means the packs are a form of gambling.

Canada and other countries have gone in the opposite direction. This past March, a judge in Canada decided that, because there’s no real-world value to the microtransactions, they’re not a form of gambling.

The Netherlands seems to be unable to take one side or another, but its position could soon change. Leon Y. Xiao, a Ph.D. Fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen, confirmed with the government that a new legislation plan is in the works.

After coming across a publication by the Rijksoverheid, the Dutch central government, Xiao noticed it mentioned a ban on loot boxes. He asked for clarification, which he then posted on Twitter.

The government’s Public Information Service confirmed that a ban is in the works. How far along it may be and whether it will reach its intended goal are still unclear.

Growing Push for Dutch Loot Box Ban

Shortly after the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Micky Adriaansens, launched an anti-loot box campaign, a proposal was put forth by six political parties in the legislature. The effort called for the government to prohibit the sale and distribution of loot boxes and other microtransactions.

Finding traction for the initiative hasn’t been easy because of the different opinions on microtransactions. However, with “gambling” increasingly becoming a taboo word, just mentioning it in any form is enough to rally support.

René Otto, an attorney specializing in gaming law, conducted an assessment of the consequences this ban would have for the international gaming sector. He asserts that the decision made by the Dutch government may lay the groundwork for other countries confronting analogous issues, thereby potentially initiating significant transformations in the financial operations of gambling companies around the globe.

Adriaansens emphasized the urgency of implementing more stringent regulations. She asserts the ban is necessary to improve consumer protection and hopes the EU will agree and establish a regionwide ban. Adriaansens apparently already has EU leaders on her side.