EA will stop selling FIFA points in Belgium in accordance with new laws.
“After further discussions with the Belgian authorities, we have decided to stop offering FIFA Points for sale in Belgium,” says EA in a recent statement. “We apologise to our players in Belgium for any inconvenience caused by this change.”
When this change goes into place on January 31, FIFA 19 players will no longer be able to purchase digital currency in FIFA using real money. While this won’t affect the way that the game’s Ultimate Team mode works (you’ll be able to purchase in-game packs using in-game currency), it will alter the game just enough to ensure its in accordance with the country’s gambling laws. However, EA has indicated they will continue to dispute these changes.
This whole situation started last April when Belgium’s Gaming Commission determined that loot boxes found in games like FIFA, NBA 2K, and Overwatch constitute a form of gambling that is in direct violation of the country’s gambling laws. As such, the country considers any games that continue to utilize loot boxes to be illegal. This is why most companies that use loot boxes in their games have decided to remove them for their release in Belgium (although some publishers have protested that they need to do so).
However, EA has made it clear that they do not intend to remove FIFA 19‘s card pack system before the game releases in Belgium (and elsewhere) in late September. Now, Belgium publication Metro is reporting that Belgian authorities have launched a criminal investigation into EA over their refusal to remove the offending loot box system from the upcoming game.
Why would EA refuse to comply with a law that nearly every other major publisher is already adhering to? According to EA CEO Andrew Wilson, it’s because they didn’t agree with the Belgian government’s decision that such systems constitute actual gambling.
“We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling,” said Wilson during an investor’s call in May. “Firstly, players always receive a specified number of items in each FUT pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money.”
That argument encouraged quite a few people to roll their eyes. The idea that players “receive a specified number of items in each FUT pack” falls apart when you realize that you don’t really know which specific items that you’re going to receive in each pack and that some items are inherently much more valuable than others in terms of their in-game worth.
As for the idea that it’s a good thing you can’t sell the items for any form of currency…well, there are plenty that would argue that in and of itself makes these items more worthless than what you would receive through more traditional forms of gambling.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.