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Lootboxes – Another Harmful Trend In The Gaming Industry?

OPINION – We regularly see lootboxes nowadays in games: packages that can be bought with real money, offering random items up for grabs, creating a sort of metagame altogether. Are they good for us? Are they useful? Will they have a positive impact on gaming? A lot of unanswered questions…

 

So, lootboxes are regularly mentioned recently. 2016’s Overwatch introduced how it’s a good idea to put items – that do not effect the gameplay! – Temporary during events and put them behind lootboxes, which are just optional. It’s something I do not condone: you don’t buy a box and find a new weapon in it in Blizzard’s game.

Pro

Do lootboxes have positive points? Oh yeah, of course, they do! For example, they can be a source of revenue for developers, which could be a necessary thing (for even survival) for free-to-play games. In this case, I don’t think there should be any complaints whatsoever.

The other positive thing is that those who would like to see the ending of a game and can spend on boxes can just use this solution. It does sound stupid, I admit it, but it’s a real thing: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War‘s final act allows you to cut corners and just spend money instead of grinding to get the proper ending. I need to point out the first sentence of this paragraph, that’s the key point here as a plus.

As another positive thing, I think I can say that they are not obligatory. I know, this point sounds dumb yet again, but we’re not at a point where you are REQUIRED to use them. Yes, dear Shadow of War: you may have its ad in the menu, it’s optional. With the FIFA series, I believe Ultimate Team has this possibility to build your team with tons of money. According to GamesRadar, you needed over 500 GBP in FIFA 17 to have the best team. I have no idea about FIFA 18, sorry.

One more thing: if these lootboxes exist WITHOUT the option to spend your hard earned money on them, then they can be a positive thing. This way, the game could offer a bit of replayability, because the RNG might throw you the item you wanted one time, but not the next. Here, all you could say is that it’s just a game mechanic. It’s not a ripoff, as it costs you no money on top of the game purchase.

While playing the first matches, and later playing with Manchester United himself, the changes brought by FIFA 18 reminded me constantly of these two matches and this player.

Against

Let’s say you can only get certain items/things/weapons/etc. with only grinding. Shadow of War tried this approach, which might not be a good idea. Just don’t tell me that the game, which was delayed by two months to October, couldn’t have been made without all that grinding as part of the end-game. It may have been the move of the publisher (Warner), which makes me take the turn towards my next thought…

We’re talking about mostly a single player game. Putting lootboxes in it isn’t a fair, correct deal in my opinion. Mobile, free-to-play, multiplayer – if you have two out of three ticked, then I’m saying it’s fine, but I don’t believe Shadow of War should have them. I consider it as an unfair business practice, and I need to clarify that’s just my personal, most likely dumb opinion.

Then, there’s the question that can lootboxes be considered as gambling? According to ESRB, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, it’s not, but I don’t remember the European board, PEGI, state their opinion on the subject. If these boxes cost real money, then it CAN be looked at as gambling, but if you add the fact that they are optional, then they aren’t. It is a thin line between yes or no.

The reason why the players and the Internet are so mad about lootboxes is that content, or in the case of Shadow of War, cheats are sold for real money. Five years ago, Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken put DLC on the disc (!), effectively putting content from the disc behind a paywall. The madness was justified by the people. The situation is similar here, but there aren’t DLCs behind the boxes (or within them). Still, if you consider the fact that on top of the game, you’d have to pay for DLC and also possibly spend cash on lootboxes – it feels like a triple dip by the devs and/or the publishers. Remember, The Witcher never had anything remotely close to it: the third game had two expansions that offered TENS of hours of gameplay. Nothing else. The Polish team didn’t mess around with boxes!

Another negative aspect could be the connotation related to the lootboxes. They don’t sound good, especially how recent games, such as Forza Motorsport 7, or the to-be-launched Star Wars: Battlefront II include them, and you might feel sympathy with those who are against them. (Now I remembered that several websites, such as GreenManGaming and G2A, offers Steam keys randomly in batches for something like one euro, although the former site had it just as a temporary possibility. The latter site is a goldmine for shit game connoisseurs, by the way. That’s another subject, though…)

There seems to be some minimalistic way of controlling land, and an in-game economy will be a part of the overall gameplay for Shadow of War, but as of yet not much has been revealed.

Future

Gamers have to stand up and form their opinions. If bigger publishers suck on the lootbox sugar due to the profit, then we will see them often, potentially forcing them on us. Or not – Ubisoft stated that Assassin’s Creed: Origins might have lootboxes, but they will NOT be available for purchase with real money. That sounds good. This is just one publisher, though. Others could follow Warner’s footsteps and somewhat punish those players who would not like to pay on top of the game for lootboxes. We shouldn’t accept this approach.

I don’t like them, but they can be done in a fair manner. Blizzard already proved an example. Don’t let Electronic Arts, Deep Silver, or other major publishers spread it. There should be boxes but only in multiplayer, or not for real money, or maybe with only cosmetic ideas. It might be a harmless approach, but let’s twist it a bit.

When will someone force the players to use them without any B plan? Imagine if there was a new Mass Effect game where EA just dumps in the boxes into the single player to make you buy a stronger gun this method. How about no? Those who have the money will decide the future of gaming. Those who pay for the game. Those who spend on the lootboxes. We’re not talking about mobile titles; we’re talking about PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC games! And not some fifteen dollar games, either! Make that sixty, or even more if you’re in a crappy country. Those who end up being addicted (because yes, it can cause addiction I believe) might end up spending the game’s price one more time, and that probably doesn’t even involve the DLC or the season pass yet whatsoever.

Just stop this madness altogether. If someone crosses the line, then don’t be afraid to point it out. If the games always put content that should be in the game from the start behind season passes, then don’t let their publishers or devs run. It’s unbelievable what route gaming COULD go down because of the appearance of the boxes.

I don’t want to see lootboxes in Anthem. I don’t want microtransactions in offline games, either. Ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, there was nothing like these things, and sure, gaming might not have been generating more revenue than movies, but it was a different era without a doubt.

Lootboxes could cause damage to gaming in the long term. One publisher might be crossing that line, and then we can remember the moment when they were just showing up in games. Make your wallet the voter in the situation. If you need to grind tens of hours for a game’s true ending, that’s not good. If you pay for the same thing, the same deal is on. I feel that 1983 might repeat itself and the gaming industry might crash, and with moves such as the lootboxes, we might be getting closer and closer to it.

Returning to lootboxes: ask yourself, would you pay for them? Now, ask yourself again: would you pay MONEY for them? One of them will likely be answered with a no… and that’s great. As long as you don’t have that credit/debit card prepared, it’s good. Don’t let yourself bite the bait to believe your game will be easier. This approach should go back to mobiles.

I’m staunchly against the Warner-flavor of lootboxes while supporting Blizzard’s method. Repeat, it’s just my train of thought, and you don’t have to agree with me. If you spent money in Shadow of War, it’s your decision. You have done it, and I’m not judging you for it. It depends on the game if lootboxes should even be part of them. Imagine if Cuphead had them. (I should write about that game as well, but now I’ll reach the bottom of the third page anyway!) That’s a great game without lootboxes in my opinion. There are modern games that do not need them and don’t forget that. There is life beyond the boxes. Extra Life.

-V-

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