In context: Though companies have been controversially implementing “loot box” microtransactions into AAA video games for years now — Valve has had a similar “crate” system in Team Fortress 2 for the better part of a decade — it wasn’t until the Star Wars: Battlefront II debacle that the loot box debate hit the mainstream.
Whether it was due to the strength of the Star Wars IP or dumb luck, Electronic Arts’ decision to push “pay-to-win” loot boxes in the title caused the company, and the game, to be lambasted by mainstream news outlets and smaller gaming sites alike. Perhaps due to this mainstream attention, regulators throughout the world began launching their own investigations into whether or not loot boxes violate gambling laws due to their unregulated nature.
While many of these investigations are still pending, some countries, such as Belgium, have ruled against loot boxes. As a result, several companies (including EA and Activision Blizzard) have been forced to pull loot boxes from Belgian versions of their games.
Unfortunately for fans of Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (both free-to-play mobile titles with loot boxes), Nintendo has decided to go the nuclear route. Instead of following in the footsteps of EA and Activision Blizzard, the company announced today that it will be pulling both games from Belgian mobile storefronts entirely.
The full announcement is in Dutch, but the following translated excerpt lays out the situation clearly enough (thanks, Google Translate):
Due to the current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models, we have decided to end the service for Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes in Belgium. It will therefore no longer be possible to play and download the games from Tuesday 27 August 2019.
Players who still have Orbs and / or Leaf Tickets in their account can continue to use them until the service ends.
In addition, future Nintendo games with similar earnings models will no longer be released in Belgium.
Notably, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp did not always have loot boxes; the additional monetization was added in a post-launch update. Perhaps Nintendo will revert the game to its previous state to comply with Belgium’s laws at a later date.
For now, Nintendo plans to remove the games from Belgian mobile storefronts on August 27, 2019.