This week, Belgium opens a criminal investigation into EA for their refusal to cancel their loot box programs, prominent industry executives and analysts speculate on China’s game approval crack down, and PUBG’s concurrent player count drops below one million as the Call of Duty Black Ops 4 “Blackout” beta begins.
Belgium Opens Criminal Investigation Into Electronic Arts
After Belgium’s Gaming Commission determined loot boxes to be an “illegal game of chance” and therefore illegal for minors to access, Valve, Blizzard, and 2K Games all made sure to disable said feature in their games. EA on the other hand, has refused to comply. As a result, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office is conducting a criminal investigation on the matter. In their coverage, Eurogamer quoted a statement from EA in April, in which they stated that their games were “developed and implemented ethically and lawfully around the world.” According to their reasoning, the fact that players always receive the same advertised number of items, and can’t officially “cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” means that their loot boxes should not “be considered as any form of gambling.” Ars Technica notes that though the Netherlands’ commission has reached the same conclusion, the UK and New Zealand gaming commissions do not agree. GamesIndustry.biz notes the EA may in fact be looking for a legal battle in hopes to have the decision officially reversed in court.
Chinese Government Rolls Out New Testing Period for Game Approval
The Chinese Government originally froze game approvals this past March due to the Chinese Ministry of Education’s concerns of a child myopia epidemic. Gamasutra reported on an article from the South China Morning Post stating that the government’s new game licensing procedures may take another 4-6 months to put in place due to a drastic internal restructuring. However, Asian games market research and consulting firm Niko Partners told VentureBeat that they expect things to progress far faster than the previously reported time frame. In the meantime, their government has implemented a “new testing period where games can go on the market for one month by getting a less stringent commercial-testing approval.” As such, Take-Two’s NBA 2K Online 2 and Kerbal Space Program for Tencent’s WeGame platform have been approved for public launch on October 2nd. GamesIndustry.biz reported on Take-Two’s CEO weighing on the matter. He stated that this issue hinges upon the Chinese Government reaching the conclusion that importing Western entertainment is in fact a good thing for their consumers and entertainment economy. He also stated that the U.S. government needs to take hard stance on the country’s “odd and unequal [trade] situation” with China in which half of an American business needs to be owned by a Chinese entity in order to market and distribute a title.
PUBG Concurrent Player Count Drops as Call of Duty Beta Begins
For the first time in the last year, PUBG’s concurrent player count on PC dropped below one million. Outlets like Eurogamer and PC Gamer point out that this dip coincided with the launch of the Call of Duty Black Ops 4’s battle royale mode beta, called “Blackout.” Player and press reception to Call of Duty’s stab at the genre has been very positive, with publications such as CNET and Forbes singing the beta’s praises and seeing it as more direct competition to PUBG than Fortnite due to its similar, military backdrop. While this broken streak may have come as discouraging news to the game’s developers at Bluehole, GamesIndustry.biz points out that PUBG broke a huge Steam record by being the first-ever game on the platform to maintain such a streak for an entire year. It still remains the most popular game on Steam ahead of titans like DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Assault. Outlets like Eurogamer and Comicbook.com reported on a PUBG data-mine earlier this week revealing huge content updates that could sway the player base back to the game later this year.