Loot boxes have been a huge topic for discussion these past few weeks. With Shadow of War and Battlefront in the headlines people are trying to define exactly what a loot box is. This is a make or break moment for gaming, and while I think it’s important we vote with our wallets, we can’t forget the developers.
Remember Who the Price Pays
Gamers are in a weird place when it comes to loot boxes. Sure it’s easy to say “don’t buy the game if you don’t want to support them” or “just don’t buy loot boxes.” But honestly, does that really help? If you buy the game but not the loot boxes you’re still funding a machine built to keep you paying far more then your initial costs. However, if you don’t buy the game at all you’re not supporting the developer and they suffer. It’s good to remember when discussing loot boxes, that developers aren’t generally the driving force behind these decisions. These are just people who have put an outrageous amount of effort to bring you stories and games they are passionate about.
While loot boxes have been a hot topic for a while, Shadow of War brought it to the a pinnacle. Bringing loot boxes to a single-player game was a huge controversy, and gamers were rightfully upset. Since few details were released at the time, the Internet did what it does best: speculate. There were rumors that it would restrict progress, forcing players to buy loot boxes in order to level up or receive exclusive Orcs hidden behind the paywall. As we all know now this isn’t the case, and it’s completely optional without hindering your gaming experience.
Shadow of Star Wars
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is the latest game to come under fire for actually providing game altering perks in their loot boxes. These perks range from damage reduction to damage boosts and alternative abilities. While everyone has access to loot boxes just from playing the game, it’s undeniable that a player who spends money on the game will have an advantage over one who doesn’t, especially in the early days of release. Where do we draw the line? Some would have said the line was drawn at game altering bonuses but Battlefront has taken that and thrown it in the trash. It’s clear now there is no line with loot boxes, and they will be used in whatever way will help them make money.
Obviously, developing games is a business, and in order to create more games there has to be income. But when we look at these micro-transactions in their current form, it’s hard to believe this is how they should be earning that income. There’s no denying that the price of games haven’t increased in several years, but the cost of development is steadily climbing. These micro-transaction systems are built in a way to take advantage of players, feeding them emotes or skins slowly in order to encourage more spending. The systems themselves feel very malicious and predatory in a way that I assume they aren’t meant to be. There are developers who spend several years creating something they are truly passionate about, and it’s hard to believe they would want that experience broken down to how much money a player can spend.
It seems to be that micro-transactions as they currently stand are a way to recoup some of the lost costs throughout the years, while not solely relying on physical or digital game sales. But isn’t there another way? Personally, I would be much happier paying $15 to $20 more per game for additional content instead of flooding games with “BUY MORE CRATES” options. There seems to be an active benefit to not classifying these transactions as gambling, since if they were gambling these games would have to have an adult only rating in addition to government regulation. This would absolutely cripple a game’s sales and do far more damage than it’s worth, likely killing loot boxes entirely. While getting them regulated isn’t a terrible idea, it’s far more complicated and not an issue developers or the industry want to deal with. This would require the government to step in, and I don’t think many of us want that.
There is no single answer to help these companies recoup some of their losses from game sales, but something needs to change. I know everyone is tired of this discussion, but it’s an extremely important one that will shape our industry for years to come. It seems we’re in the wild west of loot boxes, and these companies know it. They are testing any and everything they can to see what sticks. The best option we have right now is to spread awareness, letting developers and publishers know that we don’t want game altering perks in loot boxes.
How do you think we should look at micro-transactions in the future? Let us know in the comments below!