I think it’s about time we addressed the elephant in the room for gamers. It’s time to talk about loot boxes; are they good? Are they bad? Do they only give ugly items? This week we’re tackling it all. Just keep in mind that I do not claim to have all the answers; this is an ongoing discussion that in the end boils down to what each individual person is willing to pay for. That said, there are plenty of scummy business practices here, so it makes for a pretty deep swamp to dive into.
Loot boxes have recently become a bit of a hot topic in the gaming community. It all started when Shadow of War announced that they would have loot boxes in the game. For those who are unaware, SoW is a single player game, so unlike the subsequent stories we’ll hear in this article, it wasn’t a point of paid players having an advantage over others; the problem was more so the idea that WB Games may have artificially lengthened their game, turning it into a grind in order to sell more loot boxes containing upgrades to make the game pass by quicker. It’s a practice we haven’t really seen before in single player games and hopefully not one we’ll ever see again.
And who knows, we might have forgotten all about that within a couple months were it not for EA throwing a big canister of ‘pride and accomplishment’ onto this dumpster fire just a few months later with Star Wars: Battlefront 2. You see, before EA was inundated with so much bad press that big daddy Disney had to step in and ground them, Battlefront 2 was infamous for its loot box system. Why, might you ask?
Well, Battlefront 2 was a new frontier of scumbaggery. In the case of one Reddit user, he had bought $80 worth of in-game crystals in the hopes of unlocking Darth Vader as a hero, only to discover that Vader is priced using a separate currency. This led to the infamous response that became the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. Congrats, EA! We all know you were looking for a way to fill the void after the ‘Worst Company in America’ award went away. To top things off, the multiplayer relied heavily upon the loot box system to give players upgrades and advantages.
Now, while all this is undoubtedly awful, it leaves a big question about where loot boxes stand in the eyes of the gaming community. Can they be done well? Should we grab the torches and pitchforks and rally against any box-shaped futures?
In my opinion, they can definitely be done well. But the question is: will companies will see them as profitable enough to keep them around?
Take my beloved Overwatch, for example. They probably have the most iconic loot boxes in gaming at the moment and – in my opinion – the fairest. Unlike in Battlefront 2’s case, Overwatch loot boxes do not contain upgrades. No matter how many you open, the only possible advantage you can gain over another player is picking a skin that slightly blends into the background. And yes, these loot boxes carry the same system as any other micro-transactions in games; if you pay now, you’ll get your items faster.
Now I know people are thinking “Hey! What about the random chance! You could buy 50 loot boxes and still not get the skin you want!” That is true. However, Overwatch has circumvented this by awarding in-game credits for every duplicate you receive. Basically, for every time I’ve gotten the same item in a loot box, I’ve been given a little bit of currency to buy an item I want. It’s by no means a perfect system and there’s plenty to be said about it being a secretly addictive trick to get you to open more boxes just to earn credits, but it’s a system that works in the long run for the consumer.
I’ll give you my own personal debt as an example. After a quick search through my transaction history, I’ve spent roughly €210 euro on Overwatch, including initial purchase of the game. This is within a 1.5 year time period. Comparatively, in my roughly 4 years spent playing League of Legends, a game with no loot boxes whose only micro-transactions come in the form of character skins, I have spent €750. Even if you multiplied my spendings in Overwatch to match the 4 years I spent on LoL, it still works out cheaper. Why? Because LoL had no system wherein I could earn these cosmetics through playing (And I have no self-control…)
As opposed to forking over my wallet, I’m giving Overwatch and subsequently Blizzard my time and attention to earn boxes by playing. I haven’t spent a dime on loot boxes since the Uprising event around April last year, but the amount of time I’ve sunk into the game is beyond belief. So what it boils down to is: Does this developer care about my money or my attention? For most companies, EA included, the answer is clear. They want your wallet, your jewels and those 2 pennies stuck in the couch. It’s a difficult sell to tell developers that they don’t want money. But at the end of the day, this kind of stuff is what builds loyalty with a company and sells your future games.
So, enough of my rambling, let us know down in the comments below and on our social media what your thoughts are. Do you like loot boxes? Do you hate them? Join the discussion! We can’t wait to hear what you think.