It looks like Electronic Arts’ love of loot boxes has landed the publisher in some hot water.
First reported by the Dutch publication Metro (via Eurogamer), the Belgian government has reportedly launched a criminal investigation into EA after the publisher refused to comply with gambling laws introduced earlier this year that declared loot boxes in certain video games illegal.
The specific game that EA has been told it needs to change in order to comply with the new law is FIFA 18. The sports title, which employs loot boxes, is not transparent about which items players will receive in its boxes and Ultimate Team Packs.
During an investor call back in May, EA CEO Andrew Wilson specifically FIFA 18’s loot boxes as not being a form of gambling.
“We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling,” Wilson said. “Firstly, players always receive a specified number of items in each FUT pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorise any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money.”
Wilson also said that EA is, “working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, [and] have established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling.”
The Belgian Gaming Commission ruled last April that certain loot boxes would be made illegal in games, due to the unknown virtual items players receive in them. That same month, the Netherlands announced a similar law outlawing paid loot boxes, while the U.K. Gambling Commission rules that loot boxes are neither gambling nor illegal under British law.
In order to comply with the Belgian Gambling Commision’s law, EA would have to modify FIFA 18 to clearly label its loot boxes as a form of gambling, as well as the odds of winning.