Blizzard yanked 'Diablo Immortal' from regions with strict loot box regulations
So far this only equates to Belgium and the NetherlandsBy Cal Jeffrey 20 comments
TL;DR: Blizzard is set to launch Diablo Immortal in just a couple of days. The plan was to have a global release, but relatively recent loot box laws in Belgium and the Netherlands have prompted the developer to pull the game from those regions rather than alter the mechanic.
Diablo Immortal is a free-to-play version of the mega-hit series, designed for mobile devices and PC. Dutch news outlet Tweakers notes that players in the two regions could previously pre-register for the game. However, that option inexplicably disappeared back in April when Blizzard announced a release date.
A post to the Diablo Immortal subreddit last week confirmed that players in the Netherlands and Belgium would not be able to download the game in their countries. It also explained that because of these regions' strict anti-gambling laws, which forbid video games with a loot-box mechanic, they could not even download the game from a neighboring country like France.
"The lootboxes [sic] in the game are against the law in your country," a Blizzard support representative told a Redditor inquiring about the change. "Unless the gambling restrictions change, the game will not be released in the Netherlands and Belgium. If you [do] manage to run the game, I cannot guarantee that you will not be banned for it."
Blizzard has not previously banned players in the past who circumvented regional restrictions. Its general philosophy seems to be, "if you can make it work, go for it." However, it cannot say for sure that it will not take action, especially if regulators find out that players are bootlegging the game.
In 2018, Blizzard, EA, and other developers stopped selling loot boxes in Belgium under threat from regulators who ruled the mechanic as gambling, which is outlawed. Nintendo was also among a group of other studios that pulled games with RNG rewards from both regions in 2019. It is unfortunate news for those looking forward to playing Diablo Immortal in those countries.
However, Blizzard may change its mind and remove loot boxes to comply if it can find another way to monetize. Diablo fans have not been very receptive to the idea of a free-to-play gacha version of the beloved franchise. So if developers see that it's not catching on, they could go to an in-game store model where players can purchase specific items rather than relying on random chance. But don't hold your breath on that.
Diablo Immortal launches for iOS, Android, and PC this Thursday, June 2.