Microtransactions Roundup: Netherlands Ban Certain Lootboxes, Give Publishers Eight Weeks to Adjust

Do you remember when lootboxes were the rising star of the industry? An apparently inexhaustible source of revenue? Yeah, us neither. Because those times are long gone. Lootcrate systems do still carry titles like Neverwinter, but it appears that new games could more profit from aggressive promoting not featuring such microtransactions. This, a farewell to lootboxes in the Netherlands, and much more is inside our latest MTX news roundup!

Netherlands Ban Certain Lootboxes, Give Publishers Eight Weeks to Adjust

Tthanks to Gankdalf on our Discord for sharing this today!

Let’s start with the biggest splash that actually broke hours ago! The Netherlands are the first country in the West that actually cracks down on lootcrates. The “Dutch Gaming Authority” ruled that selected loot systems are illegal (original Dutch source) and gave publishers eight weeks to adjust their games. The basis of the decision is a study that concludes that loot boxes could be addictive, and selected ones definitely contravene Dutch law.

The study revealed that four of the ten loot boxes that were studied contravene the law. The reason is that the content of these loot boxes is determined by chance and that the prizes to be won can be traded outside of the game: the prizes have a market value. Offering these types of games of chance to Dutch consumers without a licence is prohibited.

Currently this only effects games that allow users to sell virtual goods on third party sites, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, FIFA 18, Dota 2, and Rocket League. This however is based on other publishers saying that items earned in the game have no real value and can’t be sold. It’s a standard phrase used in pretty much any Terms of Service, but laywers have questioned whether this would stand court in case somebody would actually challenge it. Don’t forget that Terms of Services have no legal bearing. Publishers can pretty much claim anything in there, until a court rules otherwise. So while games like Neverwinter aren’t currently affected by this, they could be in the future.

South Korea Fines Three Publishers

Publishers in the Netherlands aren’t the only ones in trouble though. The South Korean Fair Trade Commission has fined three game publishers over misleading odds for loot boxes in their games. In some countries in the East games have to reveal their lootbox odds, and if they fail to comply, are hit with fines. Nexon had to pay the biggest one at $900,000.

EA in the meantime is still trying to fix the game that started this whole mess. Star Wars Battlefront II effectively changes it’s monetization model and won’t be selling lockboxes any longer. The damage has already been done however, as SuperData concludes on the basis of the game’s monthly user numbers. More than that, the media intelligence company predicts “no loot boxes” to become the industry’s own “gluten free water”.

Loot boxes won’t disappear anytime soon given their success in games like Overwatch (over $600M of loot boxes sold through February 2018). In the short term, though, “No loot boxes” will be the game industry’s own “gluten free water” — and we’re likely to even see this slogan used to market titles where loot boxes would not make sense such as adventure games (e.g. Firewatch).

We’ve indeed seen more and more devs and publishers actively stating that their games won’t feature such microtransactions. Additionally companies will probably have to be very careful with how they manage existing lockboxes. Any mess-up and you could join EA in revenue hell.

The Good Kind of Lootboxes

Hey, but there are also encouraging examples. Warframe, a title often referred to as “free 2 play done right”, actually removed a best-selling MTX system because the devs doomed it morally wrong. Pass up free money to enhance player experience and with that putting the game quality over revenue? That deserves its own reward!

Also, in related news, the MMO Book Club, a community in which players periodically try out games together, introduced free lockboxes with actual cash prizes that their members can earn by simply playing with each other. Did their recent stint in Neverwinter challenged them to do a better kind of lockboxes?


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7 thoughts on “Microtransactions Roundup: Netherlands Ban Certain Lootboxes, Give Publishers Eight Weeks to Adjust

  • April 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm
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    Good News!

    I hope PWE do not respond by making all lockbox contents BtA, though. That will kill them, VIP keys and the game.

    Reply
  • April 19, 2018 at 2:44 pm
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    Its something I guess, but this whole thing is moving at such a glacial pace. I want to see perp walks!!!

    Reply
  • April 20, 2018 at 4:28 am
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    Neverwinter’s lootboxes won’t be effected due to the ZAX cause you don’t have to spend real money to open them.

    Reply
  • April 20, 2018 at 6:47 am
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    @Wyllow
    Yes, but someone has to spend money on Zen in order for others to trade AD on the ZAX (12 million or so backlog recently on PC).

    The only way to get those keys is directly from the Zen Market with Zen or indirectly with Zen from VIP. They absolutely never drop in-game, ever, so there is zero chance of getting keys any other way apart from gaining Zen through some mechanism.

    What I don’t get though is how some games SELL lockboxes. In Neverwinter, they have the highest drop rate of all (I have thousands upon thousands in the bank) and Neverwinter sells the keys to open them. That might also be a factor in how NW is affected, if it is affected at all.

    But they should have to publish the drop rates of all boxes and randomised packs, including those horrendously valueless Professions Booster Packs, Black Ice Booster Packs etc. They aren’t even worth the price in a 50% Sale if it was a guaranteed Epic Tool, Epic staff and we could choose the profession! If I want a Grandmaster Alchemist, I would never buy those packs only to get a green Tailor and a green Leatherworker’s Awl.

    Everything needs a radical overhaul, and most Zen market prices should be divided by 10 in order to qualify as “Micro” Transactions.

    Who would buy a Hammerstone Runeforge Kit these days? In Mod 3 and 4 I got one for my DC and SW with coupons. Now, I would not pay 1000 Zen unless it was an account-wide unlock all my characters could claim, and even then I’d wait for a 50% Summer Sale.

    Blood Rubies? Schlub Schubies!

    >:8o

    Reply
    • April 25, 2018 at 9:24 pm
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      Don’t forget STO shares the same conversion mechanics as neverwinter (Dilithium/AD > Zen) and also have a plethora of randomized packs including lockboxes, Duty officer packs and R&D packs.

      Reply
  • April 20, 2018 at 8:09 am
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    TOS have legal bearing if done right, it binds the user to a legally enforceable contract with the online service provider. Read https://www.eff.org/wp/clicks-bind-ways-users-agree-online-terms-service

    I believe the PWE games’ TOS fall in the “clickwarp” category and will hold in court. And thanks to their Terms of Service, it is my opinion that Neverwinter won’t be affected by the lootbox ban since selling in-game items, services or accounts for money is forbidden. Winning valuable items in-game have no market value since there is no market (or there shouldn’t be).

    Reply
  • April 20, 2018 at 1:42 pm
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    the dutch state news report was (of course) quite vaque : loot boxes are deemed gambling, if there is any (!) way to convert in game items to real money, so the existence of (illegal) third party sellers could make nw’s lootboxes illegal.

    Reply

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