Valve has restricted trading in two of its games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, in an effort to comply with the Netherlands Gaming Authority’s rules governing loot boxes. The move disables the option for Dutch players to trade items in those games.
In a statement to customers, Valve said it stopped trading in CS:GO and Dota 2 for Dutch players in response to two letters from the Netherlands Gaming Authority (aka the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit), which said that “loot boxes” in those games violate the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act.
Valve communicated the decision to suspend trade in those games in a pop-up message through Steam:
In May, we received two letters from the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit, stating that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 contain ‘loot boxes’ that violate the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act. The Kansspelautoriteit accusation is different from how other countries think about loot boxes, so we hired Dutch legal counsel, looked at the recent Study into Loot Boxes published by the Kansspelautoriteit, and learned more about Dutch law. We still don’t understand or agree with the Kansspelautoriteit’s legal conclusion, and we’ve responded to explain more about CS:GO and Dota 2.
In the meantime, we have a threat from the Kansspelautoriteit to prosecute Valve if we don’t implement a remedy by June 20. The letters don’t tell us how to do that, but the Study into Loot Boxes does contain one rather simplistic statement:
“Loot boxes contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are transferable. Loot boxes do not contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are not transferable.”
So for now our only practical alternative is to disable trading and Steam Marketplace transfers for CS:GO and Dota 2 items for Dutch customers. We apologize to you for this inconvenience. We hope that, after more engagement with the Kansspelautoriteit, they may refine their legal demands and we can find a solution that is less inconvenient.
Steam users attempting to trade with CS:GO players in the Netherlands are greeted with an error message that explains “This trade cannot be completed because transferring Counter-Strike: Global Offensive items is disabled in other user’s country.”
Valve communicated the new restriction with little or no warning, to the annoyance of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 players in the Netherlands, who are now sitting on an inventory of in-game items they can no longer trade with other players.
The Netherlands Gaming Authority announced earlier this year that it had evaluated 10 loot boxes featured in unnamed games and found four of them to contravene the country’s Betting and Gaming Act.
“The reason is that the content of these loot boxes is determined by chance and that the prizes to be won can be traded outside of the game: the prizes have a market value,” the authority said in a press release (PDF) in April. “Offering this type of game of chance to Dutch players without a licence is prohibited. Moreover, the analyses that are currently available indicate that all of the loot boxes that were studied could be addictive.”
The authority said it requested that game makers who offer loot boxes in their games to modify them “before mid-June,” and warned that it “may instigate enforcement action against providers of games of chance with loot boxes that do not adhere to this norm” by June 20, 2018.
“The Netherlands Gaming Authority therefore calls on providers of this type of loot box to remove the addiction-sensitive elements (‘almost winning’ effects, visual effects, ability to keep opening loot boxes quickly one after the other and suchlike) from the games and to implement measures to exclude vulnerable groups or to demonstrate that the loot boxes on offer are harmless,” the group said.
“To date, the supervisory body has not been able to establish that providers of the games implement control measures to exclude vulnerable groups such as minors and to prevent addiction. The Netherlands Gaming Authority puts the protection of vulnerable groups, such as minors, first.”
Polygon has reached out to Valve for comment.