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Belgium’s Gaming Commission have officially confirmed loot box features, as seen in games like Star Wars Battlefront II , have been deemed akin to gambling and should be banned across Europe.

Last week they launched an investigation into the loot crate system, to find out whether they constitute as a form of gambling, today VTM News report, they came back with a resounding yes.

The investigation and verdict came after the fallout from EA’s ill-advised loot crate system which ‘encouraged players’ to pay for random packages, which contain random features to help enhance the players experience.

However, the gaming community rebuked the idea of having to pay for extra features.

Belgium are calling on the rest of Europe to ban ‘The mixing of money and addiction’ which, intentional or not, targets gamers at an early age.

Belgium’s Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, weighed in on the matter, saying:

Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.

In the wake of EA Games receiving the dishonourable – and downright impossible – achievement of having the most down voted post on Reddit, it’s finally time to have a frank discussion about loot crates and micro-transactions.

At 341,000 points and growing the games publishing juggernaut was brought crashing back down to earth – much like Icarus who flew too close to the sun – following the mishandling of Star Wars Battlefront II’s micro-transaction system.

Gamers took a stand after they were either given the option to play over 40 hours of the game to unlock the iconic Darth Vader, or pay additional money , on top of the £50 they just paid for the actual thing – even worse was their attempt to defend the decision to an army of angry fans on their community Reddit.

Fans called them out for their hypocrisy in a blatant attempt to cover up their real intentions, which is seemingly to make more money and in turn, led to the decision to, according to The Independent, temporarily suspend SWBFII’s micro-transactions .

*News flash* Video games, like all other popular entertainment outlets, are multi-billion pound industries – as of 2015, the revenue is currently worth $91.5 billion (£69.3 billion) and EA, with franchises like FIFA, Battlefield and Need For Speed, is currently worth $27.4 billion (£18.7 billion) according to Forbes.

They’re not the only company to employ this ‘feature’, other giants like Ubisoft, Activison, Blizzard and Rockstar ( albeit minimally,) are guilty of this.

With the way micro-transactions are being put in place it’s like you’re buying a house – the game – and now you’ve got to pay for the furniture – the ‘additional’ content.

Kind of makes you think whether they got the idea from The Sims franchise?

What if The Sims was one huge social experiment in the guise of a video game, to see if micro-transactions and loot crates would be successful – scary theory right? *Illuminati drum roll*

I’m veering off topic here…

This ‘feature’ in gaming is damaging the industry and creating a culture which is akin to gambling – encouraging gamers, at an early age to place ‘chance’ and ‘luck’ on the possibility of getting a beneficial reward with real world currency – it’s a vice which can get disastrously out of hand.

While SWBFII has bared the brunt of gamers ire, the truth is, this has been going on for sometime – a perfect example being FIFA’s popular Ultimate Team mode.

The real life fantasy league feature encourages players to spend in-game and real-world currency on special packs, which randomly gives you players from any league to put in your makeshift team.

It’s like a cross between collecting football stickers and Magic: The Gathering.

What’s most notable and in my humble opinion, scandalous is, in order to get top class players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr, you have to pay REAL money on the off-chance you might get them.

In a brief search on Reddit to see how much gamers would spend on FUT, I was shocked to discover some have paid £150 to a whopping £10,000 for Premium Gold Packs.

However it’s unfair to single out EA’s games, as I said before they aren’t they only ones guilty of exploiting micro-transactions and loot crates.

In 2015 Half-Life and Portal creators had to do damage control in the fallout of their controversial Counter Strike: Global Offensive skins transactions.

Their crate-and-key system of skin drops, with the feature to trade in actual weapon skins for cash-money, was considered to be categorised and regulated as gambling.

Further more popular CS:GO YouTubers Trevor ‘TmarTn’ Martin and Tom ‘ProSyndicate’ Cassell came under investigation for running video content where they’d gamble weapon skins on  CSGO Lotto and would win – as it turned out, both of them were the owners of CSGO Lotto – a case of the game being well and truly rigged.

In an interview with Rolling Stone/Glixel, Need For Speed Payback’s developer Marcus Nilsson explained how loot crates and mirco-transactions are changing the landscape of gaming:

It’s clear prices haven’t really gone up. That’s clear. I also know that producing games is more expensive than it has ever been. The game universe is changing in front of us now. We see more people playing fewer games for longer. Engagement is important. But how do we deliver longer experiences?

The bottom line is that it’s very hard to find this golden path that’s liked by everyone. We make games that are $60 and some might think that it’s worth $40. What’s the value in the package delivered? Something like GTA 5 and GTA Online versus The Last of Us, which you can play through in 10 hours. How do we value that? That’s probably a long discussion.

My main gripe with micro-transactions and loot crates is it’s not tangible – they only exist in the digital ether, people who spend loads of money in an art auction or property can at least have something to show.

Who (outside of the FIFA community) is seeing Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez in ‘East London Athletic’? Who’s going to give one iota of acknowledgement how your Hunter in Destiny 2 has a bomb-ass Sparrow which cost you £5? No one!

They’re false gimmicks to bleed you of your hard earned money and if you’re not old enough to work yet, you’re basically allowing video game companies to come into your house and take money from your parents’ wallets.

If your okay with this maybe you’d like them to spit in your food and not flush the toilet after use, which is what I feel they’re doing.

I’m not saying micro-transactions and loot crates should be gone forever, games like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 prove they can be a beneficial addition to the product, but not necessary.

However, the current exploitation, as seen in the SWBFII debacle has proven gamers are becoming wiser to obvious money making schemes – you can dress it up all you like, talking about enhancing a gameplay experience and so forth, but at the end of the day, you can’t put a turd in an oven and call it a cake once baked.

Customers are already spending large amounts on the console, the games, control pads; it’s something big game publishers need to consider the next time they have the bright idea to add more paid content.

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