Valve has buckled to pressure from the Dutch Gaming Authority amid the rolling boil of loot box controversy.
Following a warning from the government authority, Valve has disabled item trading and Steam Marketplace transfers for DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the Netherlands.
Dutch players logging into the above games were met this week with a message from Valve, explaining the decision.
The Gaming Authority contacted Valve in May, stating that CS:GO and DOTA 2 both contain loot boxes that violate the Dutch Better Gaming Act, and action must be taken to resolve the issue by June 20.
"We still don't understand or agree with the [Dutch Gaming Authority's] legal conclusion, and we've responded to explain more about CS:GO and DOTA 2," said Valve.
"In the meantime, we have a threat from the [Dutch Gaming Authority] to prosecute Valve if we don't implement a remedy by June 20... So for now our only practical alternative is to disable trading and Steam Marketplace transfers for CO:GO and DOTA 2 items for Dutch customers.
"We apologise to you for this inconvenience. We hope that, after more engagement with the [Dutch Gaming Authority], they may refine their legal demands so that we can find a solution that is less inconvenient."
When the Dutch Gaming Authority ruled that four games were in violation of its gambling legislation, it informed all offending parties they had eight weeks to change the loot boxes in question or face legal action.
Although the Dutch Gaming Authority was joined by the Belgian Gaming Commission in ruling that loot boxes constitute gambling, the Dutch decision is strictly defined as follows: "Loot boxes contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are transferable. Loot boxes do no contravene the law if the in-game goods from the loot boxes are not transferable."
The Belgian decision however is much broader, and does not consider the option to sell or trade the contents of loot boxes as an important factor. Instead, any game whereby a wager can lead to a win or loss for at least one player can constitute gambling, a definition which accounts for player-ascribed value and item rarity.
Unlike the Dutch decision, the Belgian Gaming Commission did not set a deadline for compliance. Speaking at the time with GamesIndustry.biz, Belgian Gaming Commission director Peter Naessens said: "We are going to take all preparatory measures for the drafting of police reports, but it's not going to be tomorrow. There is a certain amount of time for the minister of justice, but it's not unlimited."