Say Goodbye to Loot Boxes in Heroes of the Storm

Until The week of March 26, Gems were the only in-game currency that players could purchase with real currency in Heroes of the Storm. That option has been removed.

In recent years, Loot Boxes have become a fixture in the most popular games (Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Objective, Apex Legends, etc.). But Blizzard Entertainment has decided to make changes to how players can purchase loot chests in HotS.

Since the controversy with the loot boxes of Star Wars: Battlefront II, developers have been eyeing options to remove loot boxes or improve their loot box system so as not to be seen as creating “pay to win” games. The March 18, 2019 patch does not go into detail about why Blizzard is making changes to loot boxes. They only make it clear that players will no longer be able to use real currency to purchase loot boxes.

Starting the week of March 26, all Loot chests earned through progression (except Hero-specific Chests), Heroes Brawl, or by spending Gold will be Caldeum Complex Loot Chests. These loot chests guarantee at least one item from the Caldeum Complex or previous years’ Lunar New Year Spring events. Carve out your place among the infamous gangs and score yourself some sweet loot before the streets calm on April 30!

HotS players will still be able to use real currency to buy Gems, Heroes, Bundles, Stimpacks, and Featured Items. But because the randomized loot boxes are seen as a form of gambling, Gems cannot be used to purchase them.

The changes could be influenced by recent concerns about paid loot boxes being a form of gambling and politicians both in the U.S. and the EU have proposed legislation to remove loot boxes from games. And to comply with the Belgian Gaming Commission, Blizzard removed paid loot boxes from both Overwatch and HotS in 2018 from their games in Belgium.

EU Countries Are Calling Loot Boxes a Form of Gambling And Developers Could Face Consequences

Developers of popular games such as PUBG, Overwatch, and Star Wars: Battlefront II could face fines or worse in the EU.

Loot boxes are essentially chests that contain items such as weapons, armor, accessories or vanity items like skins. These boxes can either be earned in-game through experience, currency or purchased offline with money. Players have no control over what is inside the box. There's a chance for items that will help game performance. Where the conflict comes in is loot boxes' game model being similar to gambling, which can make gambling accessible to youth. Countries like Germany, Belgium and Netherlands are considering taking action to prevent the pay-2-win, loot box gaming models because it violates their policies on gambling.

The University of Hamburg conducted research that found pay-2-win game models are very similar to gambling. The chairman of the Youth Protection Commission, Wolfgang Kreißig, said: "I think it is conceivable that Loot boxes could violate the ban on buying appeals to children and adolescents,"which violates the Youth Protection Act.

Belgium's De Standaard reports that the Belgian Gaming Commission is specifically investigating Overwatch, Star Wars: Battlefront II, FIFA 2018 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive for "evidence of illegal games of chance smuggled in the games." In order to for a game to be considered to be illegal, the game must meet four conditions: it has to be a game, with a certain commitment, that leads to a profit or loss for the player and where chance plays. Competent minister Koen Geens (CD & V) developers can be fined up to 800,000 euros and five years in prison if they don't remove loot boxes from games.

The Netherland's Dutch Gaming Authority investigated ten games and found 4 of the 10 games they reviewed found that "because the prizes to be won can be traded outside the game: the prices have economic value. It is forbidden to offer this type of games of chance to Dutch players without a license." The Dutch Gaming Authority is giving developers until June 20, 2018 to modify or eliminate their loot box models or face consequences, which include publicizing the names of the game developers, titles fines and or prohibition from sales in Netherlands. Popular titles that could be determined to violate the Dutch's Betting and Gambling Act include FIFA 2018, Dota2, PUBG and Rocket League.

Other nations around the world are also concerned. However, the Gambling Commission in Britain said "publishers of games must buy a gambling licence only if the contents of loot boxes can be converted back into money' according to The Economist.

Two Hawaiian State Representatives, Chris Lee and Sean Quinlan have also voiced concerns over loot boxes. In an interview with Rolling Stone's Glixel, Quinlan threatened to take action against developers who use loot boxes if they fail to "self police". And during a press conference, Lee said "This game is a Star Wars themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money" about Star Wars: Battlefront II. "It's a trap."

The Entertainment Software Associate told Glixel in an interview:

Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling. Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision.
— Entertainment Software Association