Nintendo, the makers of popular kids’ games such as Mario, has decided to pull two games aimed at children from the Belgian market. Both games, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes, contain loot boxes, which Belgium and other EU countries classified as gambling last year.
Critics are asking why now and why just these games?
In April 2018, Belgium decided to outlaw games that included loot boxes, random virtual rewards that can be bought via the game. At the time, the regulator decided this was an illegal form of gambling.
Other countries, such as the Netherlands, also decided to classify loot boxes as gambling and even made the decision before Belgium, yet critics are pointing out that Belgium is the only country where Nintendo is pulling the games.
The company has stated that the “unclear situation” prompted the removal.
Inside the games
The games are marketed to children. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp invites you to crack open boxes of fortune cookies so you can style your game. According to games news site Eurogamer, there was a “real push” to keep paying until you were lucky enough to get a rare item.
In Fire Emblem, the boxes would allow you to summon heroes to join your team. Both games classify these as “blind boxes” where the players don’t know what they are paying for before opening the box. This is why Belgium, in particular, has now classed this type of in-game play as gambling.
In-game revenue models
In a statement, Nintendo blamed the “unclear situation” in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models. The statement said, “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.”
Nintendo has not yet said whether it will pull the game from any other countries. The game will continue to be stocked in Belgium until Tuesday, August 27, and players with Orbs or Leaf tickets in their account can play them until that date.
This isn’t the first time that Belgium has cracked down on loot box games. In September, the country launched a criminal investigation into EA Sports and its popular FIFA games’ in-house play. It led to the withdrawal of FIFA Points completely. With such control over in-house play, Nintendo might just be taking action before it is forced to.