Counter-Strike has blocked Dutch and Belgian players from opening loot boxes.
There’s a big debate in the game’s industry right now: are loot boxes a form of gambling? Governments around the world are weighing in on the matter, with some saying yes, some saying no, and others not even acknowledging the question having long since been silenced by Big Gaming.
Hey, it’s a multibillion-dollar industry. You don’t think they have lobbyists? Please.
But there are two countries that came down hard against loot boxes. The Dutch Gaming Authority came to the conclusion that loot boxes are indeed a form of gambling as it shares many of the same features as real gambling, that being a random chance at reward that hooks the player into spending more and more money. The Belgian Gaming Commission came to a similar conclusion.
So they both recommended to their respective governments that loot boxes be banned, which they did earlier this spring, giving game companies until the end of June to come up with a solution.
Valve, makers of the popular shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, came up with a simple and innovative solution: prevent all players from the Netherlands and Belgium from accessing loot boxes at all.
In their latest patch, CS:GO announced that “customers in Netherlands and Belgium will be restricted from opening containers." That means whatever keys or boxes a Dutch or Belgian player might have are now worthless to them. There’s some debate in the CS:GO subreddit as to whether or not a player can hop on a train to Germany, use their cellular connection to log in, and then open loot boxes, but it seems likely this would result in a violation of the terms of service.
To counteract this blanket ban, Dutch and Belgian players now have access to the Steam Market and Steam Trading one again, allowing them to simply purchase items directly from Valve or other players.
The loot crate ban poses a tricky problem for Valve. Most of their profit from CS:GO comes from a percentage taken from all sales of keys and loot boxes. If more European countries ban those loot boxes then CS:GO’s European income will dry up.
For now, it seems that Valve is fine with simply not getting money from either the Netherlands or Belgium, but that may change if the EU places a blanket ban on loot boxes.