Nintendo have announced that Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp are to be removed from mobile app stores for iOS and Android in Belgium this August. The decision comes in response to Belgium’s anti-gambling laws that have had video game loot boxes in their crosshairs since last September, with numerous publishers jumping through hoops or removing games in order to comply and avoid hefty fines.
As Nintendo explain in a statement on their Belgian site, the decision means that the games will no longer be available to download from 27th August, and won’t even be playable within Belgium (though I’m sure you can just use a VPN if you really need a Fire Emblem fix). This will also see future Nintendo games with similar business models avoiding release in Belgium.
If you’ve been playing the games, you’ll be able to use any Orbs or Leaf Tickets until service ends, though they obviously lose all transient value in August whether you use them or not.
Belgium’s anti-gambling laws have forced several publishers to make awkward business decisions over the last year. Blizzard, Valve, 2K and EA all amended their existing games to run without paid loot boxes, though EA put up more of a fight than most. However, all of their games had other monetisation options, from being paid games in the first place to having cosmetics available for direct purchase, while Nintendo found themselves in a similar position to Square Enix, who pulled Kingdom Hearts Union X, Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia and Mobius Final Fantasy from mobile stores last year.
Anti-loot box legislation has been gathering momentum around the globe, with the most recent development being US Senator Josh Hawley introducing a bill to ban loot boxes in games played by minors. The punishment for not complying with Belgium’s laws would be a fine of €800,000 and up to five years in jail. Honestly, I think it’d be quite amusing for Belgian cops to rock up and slam Bobby Kotick or some other CEO behind bars for a few months, and equally amusing for them to nominate a fall guy, mafia-style.