There’s a new Diablo game coming out this week, but it’s not Diablo 4. The latest Activision-Blizzard title is Diablo Immortal, a free-to-play game that some people (the ones who have phones) have been anxious to play. However, if they live in Belgium or the Netherlands, they won’t be able to. Diablo Immortal will not be available in those markets, and loot boxes are probably to blame, according to Eurogamer.
The furor over loot boxes came to a head several years ago when Battlefront II and FIFA both ratcheted up the hard sell. Players were so frustrated that regulators and governments actually took notice, citing loot box mechanics as something akin to gambling. While most efforts to restrict this mechanic stalled, Belgium and the Netherlands did implement some restrictions, and it appears Activision-Blizzard is looking to avoid a fight.
The official line from the publisher is that Diablo Immortal won’t launch in these countries because of “the current operating environment.” As a free-to-play game, Diablo Immortal will be monetized with in-app purchases, which PC gamers will know as microtransactions. Immortal is a mobile-first experience, but it will be coming to PC (in beta to start) with crossplay.
Plenty of games across mobile, console, and PC utilize microtransactions to sell cosmetics and event passes, but a few like Diablo Immortal also have random loot boxes. Since you don’t know what’s in a box until you buy it, there’s an element of gambling involved. Players feel driven to open more boxes in search of valuable loot, and each one costs money. In Diablo Immortal, players can spend premium in-game currency to guarantee higher-quality items in the game’s random Elder Rift dungeons.
In 2018, Belgium’s Gaming Commission decided that loot boxes constituted gambling. EA, and Valve both disabled loot mechanics in the country. A Dutch court ruled in 2020 that FIFA’s loot boxes counted as gambling and fined EA hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, a newer ruling has overturned that precedent. Still, Activision-Blizzard isn’t taking any chances.
While the company’s PR is not admitting to anything, the support reps are more straightforward. A Redditor got a response from support about the lack of support in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the rep placed the blame squarely on loot boxes, which they say are “against the law in [the] country.” However, the rep coyly suggests you could download it in another country, which would be trivially easy with a VPN. The company could ban players for doing this, but it’s unclear if it would bother.