The controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II continues to swirl today, as Belgium's Gaming Commission looks into whether or not its in-game loot boxes should be considered gambling. If so, EA may have to halt sales of the game in the region.
If you're experiencing a bit of déjà vu, that's because the discussion of loot boxes as gambling has come up before including from the U.S.'s Entertainment Software Rating Board. While they found no grounds for concern, that doesn't mean the same will hold true in this new investigation. According to other findings, these types of loot boxes aren't considered gambling because, even though you don't know what you're going to get, you always get something for your extra cash. If you could spend a couple of bucks on a loot box and received a message stating "better luck next time," it sounds like the ESRB would have had a different opinion on the matter.
Still, it sounds like the Belgium Gaming Commission is looking at this from a slightly different angle. The fact that loot boxes don't give a clear indication of what a player is buying might be an issue, as it puts minors playing the game at risk of getting bit by the gambling bug.
There's a much bigger discussion to be had here, and it's easy to point at the hundreds of other games that have implemented similar, or arguably worse, microtransaction and loot box practices. But instances like this are what's really needed for the industry. We've got a big game causing a big stir. Depending on the ruling and outcome of this particular case, the results could have a trickledown effect. More importantly, the results might give us something resembling guidelines as to what is and is not acceptable practice when it comes to loot boxes, microtransactions and all of this other nonsense.
Even if the BGC decides Battlefront II isn't technically gambling, we can't help but wonder if all of this negative attention will help guide EA's future development decisions anyway. That doesn't seem super likely, as they've made a clear and concerted effort to pivot pretty much every project in their stable to a model similar to what we're seeing in Battlefront II. Only time will tell.