EA gives in to Belgian regulators, stops selling FIFA loot boxes

Electronic Arts is halting the sale of its FIFA Points virtual currency in Belgium. The move effectively ends the ability to buy randomized, in-game FIFA Ultimate Team card packs in the country, which the Belgian Gaming Commission has ruled is a form of illegal gambling.

EA has spent the last few months defying a Belgian order to stop selling those Ultimate Team packs in the local version of the game, drawing an investigation from the country’s prosecutor’s office. But this week, “after further discussions with the Belgian authorities, we have decided to stop offering FIFA Points for sale in Belgium,” the company wrote in a public message.

“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,” the statement continues.

In a May conference call, EA CFO Andrew Wilson remained adamant that FIFA Ultimate Team was not a form of gambling “firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money.” While that may be true, there are definitely ways to transform FUT cards back into real-world cash if you want to.

Blizzard, Valve, and 2K had already removed loot boxes from the Belgian versions of their games in the wake of the Gaming Commission decision.

Belgian players will have until January 31 to stock up on FIFA Points points before sales are halted in the country. Previously purchased points will still be usable to buy Ultimate Team packs going forward, and new packs will still be earnable exclusively through gameplay.

While Ultimate Team has been an integral part of games since 2009, was the first time EA has publicly stated the odds of receiving individual players from any one pack. That kind of odds disclosure has been required for in-game loot box purchases on iOS since late 2017.

The loss of the relatively tiny Belgium microtransaction market for is likely a drop in the bucket for EA, which writes that “the impact of this change to in Belgium is not material to our financial performance.” But the company might be more concerned about a joint effort by 15 European countries and Washington state to look into similar regulation of loot boxes in their borders. If the 278 million people in those jurisdictions are restricted from buying loot boxes, that could make a dent in a business worth nearly $1 billion to EA alone.

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