Nintendo mobile games Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will be terminated in Belgium.
According to a statement made by the company on Twitter, it was done to avoid potential conflict with the country’s loot box ban.
From August 27, these games will no longer be possible to play or download “due to the current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models”; this, a clear reference to the two games offering loot box-esque rewards and Belgium’s harsh stance on the matter.
Back in April of last year, the Belgian Gaming Commission began investigating loot boxes across several popular games and determined that the randomised rewards were in violation of the country’s gambling legislation. The verdict resulted in loot boxes being deemed gambling, and therefore illegal – underscored by a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to €800,000 for those that fail to comply.
Both Nintendo products offer purchasable ‘Leaf tickets’ and ‘Orbs’ respectively, that can be exchanged for loot box style rewards. These mechanics would run contrary to the aforementioned Belgian law, which prohibits randomised in-game items in exchange for real money.
The statement by Nintendo also indicated that the company would not introduce games with akin monetisation strategies in the country moving forward. “In addition, future Nintendo games with similar earnings models will no longer be released in Belgium.” The timeliness of Nintendo’s action is unclear, given the law was introduced back in April 2018, with Netherlands following suit shortly after. Still, there’s no word on the company ceasing operations of these games for its Dutch clientele or otherwise.
The case at hand is just one of many troubling run-ins within the scope of loot boxes and its affinity with gambling. Several countries have stepped in to address the issue at this point, Sweden being the most recent – however, Belgium has by far been the most disruptive force. Belgium’s warfare has led to the disabling of CS:GO loot boxes for Dutch players as well as a criminal investigation being launched against EA, resulting in the termination of its FIFA microtransactions.
Nintendo is likely the last company you’d expect to see caught up in a loot box narrative, avoiding such controversies with their most popular games, including Super Smash Brothers and Splatoon. Though, barring Nintendo’s industry maturity, it’s unsurprising to see them withdraw from Belgium before having the pressure put on them.
Esports Insider says: If anything, Nintendo’s decision in this instance was a responsible approach to Belgium’s clear-cut law. Though, without any pressure from the country’s gaming commission, it’s peculiar that Nintendo would pull these two games from the shelves – regardless, the choice will evade any unnecessary conflict and should be met with some level of praise.