Nintendo is shutting down two of their mobile games, including Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, in Belgium later this year and loot box regulations appear to be the culprit.
The company has not specifically stated that the issue is related to loot boxes, choosing to only say that there is an ‘unclear situation regarding certain in-game revenue models’, but the writing is on the wall. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp prominently features random chance paid loot boxes in the form of fortune cookies with exclusive items, a mechanic that is considered akin to gambling by many users.
Here’s the official statement from Nintendo of Belgium, translated via Eurogamer:
Due to the current unclear situation in Belgium regarding certain in-game revenue models, we have decided to end the service for Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes in Belgium. It will therefore no longer be possible to play and download the games from Tuesday 27th August 2019.
Players who still have Orbs and / or Leaf Tickets in their account can continue to use them until the service ends. In addition, future Nintendo games with similar earnings models will no longer be released in Belgium.
In regard to exactly what regulations are causing concern from Nintendo, the Belgian Gaming Commission declared last year that randomized loot boxes in video games can be considered criminal gambling. Given that the games are often played by minors, the fines could be doubled, something that should concern Nintendo in particular.
However, nearly every other game with similar mechanics operating in Belgium has chosen a lighter approach of simply disabling the paid purchase of loot boxes for users from the country, including Overwatch and FIFA. Nintendo could choose to do the same and just disable paid fortune cookie purchases, while still allowing Leaf Tickets to be purchased for other uses.
Unfortunately, Nintendo is simply shutting down the game entirely, including for existing users. This feels like an extreme response, especially when considering all of the players who already have made significant paid purchases of Leaf Tickets and will now lose the ability to play the game they spent those Leaf Tickets in.
An important lesson can be learned here on that note though — anything you purchase digitally in a game like Pocket Camp is ultimately temporary and can be taken away from you at any time, so be careful how much you invest in paid in-app purchases.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes will no longer be available to play starting on August 27th in Belgium. Other upcoming games like Mario Kart Tour using similar business models are unlikely to launch in the country too.