Belgium - World-renowned video games maker Nintendo has pulled two children’s games - Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes - from the Belgian market after regulations in the country likened some elements in the games to gambling.
However, critics were quick to ask why now and why just these games? In April 2018, Belgium ruled to outlaw games that included loot boxes, random virtual rewards that can be purchased via the game. At the time, the regulator also ruled this was an illegal form of gambling.
Other nations, like the Netherlands, also followed suit and classified loot boxes as gambling and even made the decision before Belgium did. However, critics are pointing out that Belgium is the only country where Nintendo is recalling the games.
The company has explained that the “unclear situation” resulted in the removal of the two games.
The games are marketed to children. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp invites you to open boxes of fortune cookies so players can style their game. Critics have said there was a “real push” to keep paying until these players lucked out on landing a rare item.
Meanwhile, in Fire Emblem, the boxes would let players summon heroes to join your team. Both games classify these as “blind boxes” where the players have no idea what they are paying for before opening the box. This is why Belgium, in particular, has now categorized this kind of in-game play as gambling.
In a statement, Nintendo blamed the “unclear situation” in Belgium with regards to specific in-game revenue models. The statement explained, “In addition, future Nintendo games with similar earnings models will no longer be released in Belgium. We would like to thank all players in Belgium for playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes.”
It remained unclear if Nintendo will pull the game from other countries. The game will continue to be stocked in Belgium until August 27, and players with Orbs or Leaf tickets in their account can play them until that date.
This actually isn’t the first time that Belgium has clamped down on loot box games. In September of last year, the country conducted a criminal investigation into EA Sports and its popular FIFA games’ in-house play. It led to the complete withdrawal of FIFA Points. With such control over in-house play, Nintendo might just be taking action before it is forced to.