Diablo Immortal won’t be released in the Netherlands or Belgium due to its use of loot boxes, according to an Activision Blizzard communication manager.
The game, which will launch on mobile and as an open beta on PC on June 2, was briefly available to pre-register on the Apple and Google Play app stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, but was removed after a few days.
After asking why this was the case, Dutch site Tweakers received a reply from Activision Blizzard’s communication manager for Benelux, who confirmed that the games would not be available in Belgium or the Netherlands.
According to the communication manager: “This is related to the current operating conditions for games in those countries.”
The situation was further explained on the Diablo Immortal subreddit (as spotted by GamesIndustry.biz), where a Blizzard employee added: “Unfortunately players in the Netherlands and Belgium will not be able to install Diablo Immortal due to the countries’ gambling restrictions.
“The lootboxes in the game are against the law in your country, so unless the gambling restrictions change the game will not be released in the Netherlands and Belgium.”
The employee then warned against trying to download the game from another region’s app store, stating: “It would be illegal for you to download the game in another country like France. If you manage to run the game I cannot guarantee that you will not be banned for it.”
In April 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission found that loot boxes, such as those sold for real currency in FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode, constituted gambling.
The Commission then went as far as recommending criminal prosecution against companies which continued to sell them in their games.
The reason for Blizzard’s decision not to sell the game in the Netherlands is a little less clear, because in March this year a major court case found that loot boxes aren’t always in violation of the country’s gambling laws.
The court of The Hague decided in October 2020 that the Netherlands Gaming Authority would be allowed to fine EA €500,000 every week it continued to sell loot boxes in FIFA Ultimate Team, after the feature was deemed to be in violation of gambling rules.
However, in March 2022 the Dutch Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State ruled that the previous finding was an “unjustified penalty”, and that EA no longer had to pay the fine.
The new finding is not a definitive conclusion on whether loot boxes are gambling. Rather, it’s simply a ruling that, under Dutch gambling laws, a ‘gaming licence’ (i.e. gambling licence) is only needed if the ‘game of chance’ aspect is a standalone product like a slot machine, rather than a single element of a larger game of skill.