The loot box debate has been a hot topic in games for several years now, with several government bodies opting to classify the in-game feature as gambling and regulating them as such.
One of these countries has been Belgium, whose Gaming Commission deemed in 2018 that loot boxes are indeed a form of gambling and threatened legal action against any game companies who implement the features in their games (well, in Belgium).
While companies such as Valve and Blizzard opted to remove loot boxes from the offending games, Square Enix chose to remove three of its mobile games altogether rather than comply with regulations – and now it seems Nintendo is following suit.
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Nintendo has announced that is will shut down mobile games Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes in Belgium in August (via Eurogamer).
Nintendo Belgium announced the decision on Twitter, claiming the games are being shut down due to the "current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models". You can check out the tweet below:
A longer statement followed on Nintendo Belgium's official website, stating:
"Due to the current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models, we have decided to end the service for Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes in Belgium. It will therefore no longer be possible to play and download the games from Tuesday 27th August 2019.
"Players who still have Orbs and / or Leaf Tickets in their account can continue to use them until the service ends. In addition, future Nintendo games with similar earnings models will no longer be released in Belgium.
"We would like to thank all players in Belgium for playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes."
(Thanks Eurogamer for the translation).
Loot boxes: what's the deal?
So what is a loot box? A loot box is an in-game feature that sees players spending real-world money to open an item with further randomized items inside. Essentially you spend real world money to open the box (or pay for a key to open it, among other variations) without knowing what its contents are – they could be good or they could be bad.
Due to the chance element, and the involvement of real world money, some government bodies have ruled that the feature should be classified as gambling and regulated as such. Not surprisingly, some game companies disagree and aren't happy with the new regulations being brought in.
In the case of Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Nintendo hasn't been clear about which elements of these games are conflicting with the Belgian Gaming Commission's regulations.
However it's likely that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp's fortune cookies, which you can purchase and eat to gain a randomized reward, and Fire Emblem's Summons, which are used to obtain more heroes.
It seems these games will only be pulled from Belgian stores, but it seems game developers are not willing to take loot box regulations lying down…