Electronic Arts have thrown in the towel in their battle with Belgium over whether or not paid loot boxes in FIFA's Ultimate Team mode constitute illegal gambling. Without admitting to anything, EA today announced that they will soon stop selling Belgian players the 'FIFA Points' microtransaction currency used to buy Ultimate Team 'packs', effectively stopping selling them. Technically if someone is sitting on €657965468476 of virtuacash they'll still be able to buy loot boxes until the cows come home, but no new Points will be sold.
"After further discussions with the Belgian authorities, we have decided to stop offering FIFA Points for sale in Belgium," EA said today. I can relate. After further discussions with the Scottish authorities, I myself recently decided to stop stabbing tourists in Scotland.
Belgium's Gaming Commission ruled in 2018 that loot boxes in some--but not all--games constituted illegal gambling, and would need to go. Their initial examination of loot boxes in a handful of games ruled that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and FIFA 18 were in violation. While CS:GO and Overwatch cut off loot boxes for Belgian players, EA initially dug their heels in, protesting that the Commission were reading the law wrong.
No more. EA announced this morning that they're working to remove the ability to buy FIFA Points in Belgium by January 31st. Belgian folks can still play Ultimate Team, can still buy stuff with the virtuacash earned by playing, can still use any players they got through FIFA Points, and can still spend leftover points they may have. But no more paying real money to shortcut some of the mode's grind and frustration.
"We seek to bring choice, fairness, value and fun to our players in all our games," EA said, highlighting that they have started disclosing the ludicrously low odds of getting top cards in packs. I can relate. I myself seek to bring choice, fairness, space, and fun to Edinburgh residents who need to get up Leith Street but can't because vast crowds of tourists loiter on the bottleneck corner until I come along waving a knife and shouting "SHIFT YOUR ARSE OR YOU'LL GET IT."
EA don't actually concede that what they were doing was illegal.
"While we are taking this action, we do not agree with Belgian authorities' interpretation of the law, and we will continue to seek more clarity on the matter as we go forward," they concluded. "The impact of this change to FIFA Ultimate Team in Belgium is not material to our financial performance."
I can't say I agree with Scottish authorities' interpretation of the law, and I too seek more clarity on the matter. I do expect this to have a positive material impact on my financial performance, because more time spent pushing through the bastard crowd once more means less time in the pub.