The Dutch ban on loot boxes has forced Valve to alter DOTA 2 to comply with local laws, and their solution looks suspiciously a lot like gambling.
At the end of last month, the Dutch government’s ban on gambling in video games took effect. This meant that loot boxes from all games, whether it be Overwatch, PUBG, or DOTA 2, were all illegal. Developers everywhere had to come up with some solution to take loot boxes out of their games, but only for players in the Netherlands (or Belgium, which also banned loot boxes, but we’re not talking about them right now).
Valve’s solution in DOTA 2 was ingenious. They simply revealed the contents of the loot box before the player even buys it. Now it’s not gambling since the player can see what’s in the box, right?
Not so fast. As many an intelligent Redditor pointed out, this simply shifts what the Dutch player is gambling on. Sure, you can see what’s in the box you’re about to buy, but you can’t see what’s in the next box. And you can’t buy the next box until you buy the current box.
In effect, rather than gambling on the loot box in front of you, you’re gambling on the next loot box in line.
It also sucks for Dutch players, since now if you’ve already got what’s in the box presented you’re still forced to purchase a duplicate to have a chance at buying something else.
Dutch players were quick to point out that while Valve’s solution was indeed clever, it’s unlikely to fly for very long. Europe tends to enforce both the spirit and letter of the law, and they don’t take kindly to American companies trying to skirt their regulations.
For Valve, this presents a problem. The only real solution is to create an entirely new storefront that shows every Dutch player exactly what’s in every box. At that point, it’s less like buying a loot box and simply buy cosmetic items from an online storefront.
However, redesigning the entire DOTA 2 store would be expensive and time consuming for a developer that wants to get back into designing new games rather than continuously refining their old ones.
We give it a few months tops before the Dutch government slams Valve with a huge fine.