Typing ‘Belgium’ into an incognito Google search box today brings up three key news stories about the central European country. And they’re all about loot boxes.
This is a country of 11,303,528 people, who have a world-renowned ability to brew brilliant beer, concoct chocolate delights, make some mean waffles, fry arguably the best chips around (I may be hungry as I write this), plus boast a football team that punch well above their weight and are headed for the World Cup next year.
And yet despite all that, the most interesting thing that’s happening in Belgium today, according to Google, is that its Minister of Justice wants to ban loot boxes.
I’m not sure if that says something about the rarity of interesting events in Belgium, Google’s tendency to go all in on a single story, or maybe the sheer tenacity of the press when a big story just keeps on giving – and by god this one really has delivered.
PC Gamer and Polygon led the gaming news pack on that particular search term, and I imagine it’s the very first, and possibly last, time that the latter two will rank so highly for the word ‘Belgium’. But pretty much every outlet was queuing up behind them, even newspapers covered it.
Now The Telegraph doesn’t usually get behind the utterances of European legislators, rather the opposite, though as it notes none “of these authorities have direct control on laws in the United Kingdom.”
And I very much doubt that Belgian legislators stand a chance in hell at trying to get the law changed across Europe. The limited statements we have are full of the usual misunderstandings of the games industry, very much in the ‘won’t anyone think of the children’ line of thought, and when Battlefront II has a 16 PEGI rating that’s a bit rich.
Belgian legislators don’t hold the power here – consumers do. If they don’t want randomised loot boxes then they’ll vote with their feet and pressure the publishers and license holders. Disney has reportedly already reined in EA on this one, though I reckon there’s more chance of Belgium winning the World Cup (14/1 at present) than Ultimate Team suffering a similar fate... over to you FIFA.