Each country has its own criteria on whether loot boxes in video games constitute a form of gambling. While New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States are okay with loot boxes in video games, others such as Belgium and the Netherlands disapprove of loot boxes as they feel it promotes gambling among minors.
Earlier in the year, Dutch Gaming Authority Kansspelautoriteit carried out a study on the ten most popular games with loot boxes on Steam and discovered that four of them violated the Dutch Betting and Gambling Act. Therefore, the organization set a deadline for June 20, 2018, to give video game publishers sufficient time to make the necessary adjustments to their games to comply with the law. Although big names like EA and Activision Blizzard initially came to mind, Valve was the first to fall victim to the Kansspelautoriteit’s crackdown.
In May, Valve received two alarming letters from the Kansspelautoriteit with accusations that the loot boxes present in the ever-so-popular CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) and Dota (Defense of the Ancients) 2 games represented an infringement to the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act. The Dutch Gaming Authority gave Valve an ultimatum to make the necessary modifications to both games by today or the Kirkland-based developer could face administrative fines that can scale up to 830,000 euros (approximately $962,000) or ten percent of the company’s global revenue.
After meeting with its Dutch legal team, Valve discovered a rather useful piece of information in the Dutch law. Apparently, loot boxes are only illegal if the in-game items are transferable. As a stop-gap solution, Valve ingeniously disabled Steam trading and Marketplace transfers for CS:GO and Dota 2 for Dutch Steam users. While Valve didn’t understand or agree with the Kansspelautoriteit’s assessment of the loot boxes in the affected games, the company will continue to work with the Dutch authority to work out a more convenient solution for its Dutch customers.