The Daily Grind: Are MMO lockboxes actually even worse than gambling?

MMO blogger Ethan “Isarii” Macfie made an interesting point in one of his recent Critical Writ videos that I think deserves some amplification and debate. He argues that lockboxes are fairly compared to gambling — but in fact, they’re far worse.

In a traditional gambling setup, he notes, you might have 99 losers in a group of 100. The payment provided by the losers literally pays the winners (as well as pays for the infrastructure behind the casino). Without the losers’ cash, the casinos would have nothing to give to the winners – the risk is the only thing the casinos have to trade on.

In video gaming, however, that’s not how it works. A video game company is capable of selling gameplay as a product. There’s no fundamental scarcity of pixels in a digital game, and the profits from lockboxes aren’t going back to the winners in any sort of tangible way. Lockboxes merely allow the studio to create losers from pure greed. As he puts it, “They choose to introduce these goods in a way that creates losers out of their customers who don’t get what they want and have to take more chances possibly still not getting what they want to really purchase what they’re trying to purchase.”

Do you agree with Isarii? Is he right that MMO lockboxes are even worse than gambling?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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78 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Are MMO lockboxes actually even worse than gambling?"

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George

Fortunately, I never get into this loot-boxes stuff. But I agree that it’s even worse than casino gambling.

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DriftingCookie

I believe that Counter Strike:Global Offensive gambling is the worst addiction anyone can get into. I certainly regret my addiction….

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David ward

They serve the same purpose, allowing game companies to stay in business. They’re both shady cause they work best on people’s need to win. The few times I’ve purchased a lockbox however I’ve won more times then I would ever have gambling. So the chances are much better. Of course that could depend on the game.

Is it worse? Not in my eyes, any business that depends on a negative human trait for its success is simply wrong, lockboxes and gambling both have a good chance of triggering an addiction type of play from the player and I hate companies who make money by helping another person loose everything.

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Paragon Lost

Yes.

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Serrenity

The thing that gets me about MMO lockboxes is the complete black-box (see what I did there?) feeling of the whole thing. There’s only a degree of ‘pseudo-random number generation’, which is all handled server side that the publisher can tweak and manipulate to their hearts content.

And they do. When they talk about increasing drop rates of something in a drop box, they are showing they can manipulate the rules of game without any input from you, or any over-sight from anyone else. More than that, we have no way of verifying if the alleged drop rates are true or not, and the publisher sure isn’t sharing that information. We are basically beholden to them pinky-swearing they wouldn’t manipulate the data to get more money. They have a fiduciary responsibility to separate you from as much of your money with as little cost as possible.

Moreover, as these are algorithmically handled and can take in a huge number of factors on a player-by-player basis to manipulate drop rates of desirable pixel. Maybe your profile says that you generally open 3 lockboxes and then stop if you don’t get anything. But if you get a desirable item within those 3 lockboxes, you are more likely to purchase an additional 6 to get more. So the game can then automatically adjust to give you a greater chance of medium quality item in the first 3 because it increases the likelihood that you’ll purchase an additional 6, regardless of whether you get a big payout or not.

Publishers / developers have this kind of data, and they use it in this exact way all the time. Lockbox gambling is personalized — the publisher is absolutely building a profile of you to determine on a player-by-player basis the most effective way to get you to pay more while they have to do less.

Artificial pixel-scarcity is understandable to me because in a game we can’t recreate the scenario of true scarity because the limitations in meatspace don’t apply in virtual space and scarcity drives desirability (hence, a big reason that rewards tied to raids are still popular – it’s a lazy way to create scarcity in a game).

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Robert Mann

It depends on the game. I do still think that LOTRO at the least (maybe DDO given the developer tie in?) isn’t so bad (given that they allow you to earn with new dailies, or get keys as random drops with at least a moderate frequency.) There’s more lockboxes, sure, but you can open probably half of what you get with random drops… at least in my experience.

Which is why I don’t mind them having the lockboxes, unlike just about every other game, where I would agree it is purely a greed mechanic.

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Michael18

not only do you get 1 key almost every day through dailies, you can also trade them on the AH, which means there’s another route to get them via ordinary in-game currency.

Personally, I still avoid lockboxes in LOTRO (selling all my keys on the AH, atm), because I just dislike the concept in principle. When I realized the best way of farming Ashes of Gorgoroth is via lockboxes, I decided to not go for best-in-slot for the 4 gear slots where you need Ashes for the best items, but instead content myself with 2nd-best-in-slot in these cases.

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Sally Bowls

It is a distinction without a difference between lockbox gambling and the rest of the RNG-loot gambling in MMOs. Are the emotional highs & hormones of winning, the addictive “damn I lost, let me bet again” significantly different between opening a lockbox or opening an unlocked box at the end of a dungeon you are chain running to see if you got a legendary? While morally equivalent, lockboxes tend to be more player friendly than MMO RNG loot gambling since you can wager mere money instead of wagering your more valuable time.

I can not believe this is really about gambling. As the Helen Lovejoy pleads “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” about gamble boxes with addictively random, delicious loot purchased with RL$; clearly, the children should strive for gamble boxes with addictively random, delicious loot purchased with their time. Ofc, if someone with a straight face says people speed chain run dungeons/fractals/raids for fun, well a few do but I ask you what would be the MMO player reaction if the devs said “since everyone is running this content for funsies, in the next expansion we have decided to remove the loot”

Is it OK for the child to take the $5 they were going to spend on those evil lockboxes, buy gems then gold, buy items off the TP and then use those items to buy ectoplasm gambling boxes? throw the items into the Mystic Forge and see if their gamble paid off? Buy some WoW ore and hope the prospecting gamble pays off by giving valuable enough gems? What about someone who spends $150 on WoW tokens to hire a guild to run him through a mythic raid, gambling that his random loot drops will be worth it? All of these scenarios are about turning RL$ into random in game items – i.e. also gambling. Are these sins the children should also be protected against? Isn’t the Mystic Forge even more evil than lockboxes; gateway gambling? Teaching children you can risk valuable stuff and sometimes there is the thrill of getting back something far more valuable back.

My two favorite gambling experiences in MMOs have unsurprisingly been crafting related. In WoW wrath, I would buy a gem for 1g and cut it; 90% of the time the output vendored for .75, 10% it sold for 50g. In STO, you could craft mats worth 7,000 and about 157 of 160 times the output vendored for 4,000 about 1 in 160 times the output sold for 10,000,000. I netting approaching $200 worth of in-game currency queueing these up over a couple of weekends. I got all the thrill of gambling and turned a profit.

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Robert Mann

But time spent gaming is what games are for… where as money put in is a different story. Where a person can devalue their own money all they want, the two have a huge fundamental difference:

The one you should be enjoying doing in it’s own regard. The second you are doing out of hope for a winner’s reward.

Sure, some games fail hard at making the first fun in and of itself. Sure, we don’t have to have RNG systems (games have been slowly minimizing those in some games, while others double down.) If the purpose of the play is only about the reward, you might be correct… but then I would suggest just having a bag of snacks over head and every half hour having your ‘reward timer’ ding and you get a treat, if that’s all a person is looking for.

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Sally Bowls

There is certainly an element of truth in what you say. I am sure you believe it; not trying to make a personal attack. But IMO those sort of arguments tend to be more straw man proposals in forums than real world.

There is huge pushback when the rewards that drop from the random Skinner boxes in a dungeon or raid are nerfed. A lot of the talk in WoW about burnout was from people doing so many runs of the same dungeon for random Skinner boxes of AP & legendaries. If people were enjoying it instead of for loot, there would not be burnout.

I am skeptical that all the people doing gear checked, skip the cut scene, DPS metered speed runs are doing it for the joy of gaming.

What would be the reaction if the devs told the raiders that since they were running the raids for fun, there should no objection to letting casual solo people craft the same stuff that was in their random Skinner box reward?

I absolutely agree that you described is the ideal we would wish for. My opinion is that in 2017 so many MMOs and MMO players have strayed so very far from that. I see it as a lot of MMO players Pavlovian conditioned to run around getting a gambling fix from opening Skinner boxes with random contents. Their lockbox complaints aren’t really complaining about the greed impelling them to seek the Skinner boxes. Their lockbox complaints aren’t companing about the gambling endorphins from random Skinner Box loot (remember how they had to add more rng loot to D3 1.0 instead of the coins drop buy gear). Some are just complaining that other people are obtaining random Skinner Box loot in other ways than the ones they are good at (see metabuilds and DPS meters) And some are complaining that money is being spent.

I am sure there is a lot of sincerity in the anti-lockbox side. But it triggers my hypocrisy meter when people who are grinding and chain running content gambling that there is some sweet loot amongst their random rewards go all Capt Renault: “I am shocked- shocked- to find that gambling is going on in here!” There was gambling in MMOs before there were lockboxes. Now people are just wagering something the traditionalist don’t approve of.

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Witches

Lockboxes are like the snake oil salesmen from cowboy movies, they are a scam, only one side is risking anything, when you can produce infinite copies of a “rare” thing the term rare is being misused.

Gambling addiction is something that comes from the player, the casino doesn’t want you to be an addict, they just want you to spend money playing a game where the odds are against you, the profit for the casino comes from many people playing for the same prize.

Lockboxes aren’t regulated, they can do whatever they want to with them, you literally can’t win with a lockbox, that rare item you win can be removed from the game at any time, it can be nerfed to uselessness, your class may lose the ability to use it, in short it’s a scam.

As for what’s worse, as far as i know lockboxes aren’t a problem while gambling is.

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A Dad Supreme

“Do you agree with Isarii? Is he right that MMO lockboxes are even worse than gambling?”
======
Well, until FFXIV puts me in rooms where they pump in oxygen, have no windows or clocks so I have no concept of time passing and it peppers me with free drinks and cheap food while I open lockbox after lockbox, no… it’s not worse than real gambling.

Right now, I view lockboxes like I view collectible trading cards. Spend a few bucks and hope to get the shiniest card in the pack.

(disclaimer: I do not buy lockboxes or “keys” for any game)

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ichi sakari

Half the world is composed of idiots, the other half of people clever enough to take indecent advantage of them.

– Walter Kerr

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Schmidt.Capela

Yeah, from that point of view lockboxes are worse than conventional gambling.

With gambling the casino is offering money, which is something they have no exclusivity over (plenty other ways to earn the same prize) and that they can’t duplicate at will (thus it’s impossible for them to give every player what he desires).

With lockboxes, the contents are often exclusive (i.e., if you want it, the only way is to keep gambling until you win it), and things the publisher can duplicate at will to boot (which means their “scarcity” is just an anti-consumer ploy to drive as many players as possible into this kind of gambling).

This is why I usually deal with lockboxes by actually destroying those that drop for me, and if I ever find myself tempted to purchase a lockbox or key due to one of its exclusive prizes, I will instead immediately uninstall the game.

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Armsbend

Yes – because it is targeting the young and irresponsible.

In a casino if you are drunk or a kid – they kick you out.

I’ve been writing by representatives for years – the very least I can do – but since little money is attached for them to steal themselves – they will likely never look at it seriously. Until one of their kids overdoes the family credit card or gets addicted to gaming.

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Melissa McDonald

you have to be disruptively drunk. They like a gullible sheep.

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Arktouros

Lockboxes are gambling. In both scenarios you’re dropping money down at a chance of winning big (big stack of money vs some super rare mount). The only difference is that with lockboxes they give you a number of consolation prizes that are often times garbage that is either worth less than the value you paid for or items you did not want. It’d be the equivalent if a casino gave you a package of peanuts after losing a hand of black jack or occasionally a free drink.

That said I don’t think they’re inherently better or worse beyond the fact that people use those “free peanuts” (IE: Potions and other equivalently useless items in game) to justify them as not gambling. No one has ever dropped $150 on lockboxes and said, “Yes! A bunch of free potions and mini pets I never wanted! Such value! This has been a pleasurable experience.”

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Siri

Well in both situations the house wins period, and I think as consumers we all have a brain and should choose wisely weather we want to get involved these activities.

My father is a gambler, albeit a responsible one, but being he is a gambler a lot of his friends are gamblers too. The addiction is real and I have known of some gamblers losing family and friends because of not being able to control the addition.

Also gambling comes in so many forms, handicapping horse races, casino black jack, betting on sports, or just the slot machines. I think it is unfair to compare them to Lotboxes in games.

I will have to personally say that from my experience with my father and his buddies that real life gambling is far worse. Morgages being unpaid, folks hiding from someone they owe money to off a bet lost, and it also promotes alcoholism. So yeah real life gambling way worse and not even in comparison to the far reaching effect it can have on families.

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zoward

“They choose to introduce these goods in a way that creates losers out of their customers”.

Hmm … what is he telling us here?

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Stropp

I think so. In most games of chance, the gambler knows the odds of winning. Horse and dog racing, bookies calculate the odds. And in ‘legitimate’ gambling, the government oversees and regulates the industry. (There are some exceptions, some overseas betting agencies operate outside government oversight.)

But with lockboxes, nobody really knows the odds, or even if there is a random element. Maybe the lockbox is programmed to give items useless to your class. If an RNG is used then who knows what the odds of getting something useful are. 1 in 1000, or 1 in 50,000?

And unlike a game like say Roulette which unless fixed has a 1 in 35 chance of a number coming up which cannot be changed. If too many players are ‘winning’ in the lockbox lottery, the devs can increase the odds with a single line of code. What are the odds that won’t get put in the changelog?

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Brother Maynard

Exactly this.

The argument that profits from lockboxes aren’t going back to the in any sort of tangible way could be answered to some extent that for some games (e.g. TSW) they were the only way to survive at all. Still, we have no idea how much of the profit really goes back to support and develop the game and how much is used for other stuff (unrelated games, management bonuses, lavish office parties and whatnot).

But that, after all, is a relatively minor thing – same could be said of any gambling business. However, the fact that there is no regulation, no independent scrutiny of the ‘chance’ element in these MMO games of chance is the more worrying part.

Unlike regular casinos, there are no clear indications as to the nature of these activities in the game – no warnings, no age restrictions, no advice on how to get help in case of a gambling problem; there is literally zero control of the mechanics behind, with no way of knowing the exact likelihood of winning (as is always the case in traditional regulated gambling business) – in the end even if the studio told you the chance is X%, you have no guarantee whatsoever, there is no independent authority who would audit the studios and enforce their transparency and their compliance with the rules. A company like Trion could easily tell you that your chance is 10% while in reality it’s 0.1%.

It’s all a big rotting black box.

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kidwithknife

The fundamental difference between lockboxes and traditional gambling is that only traditional gambling allows the minuscule possibility of winning your money back. That’s what makes gambling addiction a thing; without the chance (however slim) to make the money back even very addiction-prone people understand that you stop when you’re down to your rent money. Unless lockboxes start offering real money they will never be anything even remotely like traditional gambling.

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Isarii

One of my editors referred to it as “paying for a chance to pay for something” in response to the video – which is awesome, and I wish he’d said it beforehand so that I could have shamelessly stolen it.

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kidwithknife

I don’t follow.

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Space Captain Zor

I’ll tell you what’s worse than all of this… I can’t find a Vega 64 Liquid Cooled anywhere for MSRP >:(

Estranged
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Estranged

I don’t know what is worse – the gambling or the judgment.

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Utakata

Well to answer today’s DG question, I need to first to determine if Lockboxes are a form of gambling or not.

If they are, then claiming they are worse than gambling is like claiming slot machines are worst than gambling. To which my pigtails are unable to wrap around the concept of how is something worse than gambling when it’s a part of gambling by definition?

If they are not, then is the question based upon the opinion of the source asking the question, or a widely understood definition of what lockboxes are? And what degree of severity that lockbox habits entail, such as people losing their livelihoods, families and/or homes while trying to get that rare Hello Kitty hat they want to use on one of their characters? o.O

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TheDonDude

The article makes it fairly clear that they’re comparing with ‘traditional gambling’. i.e. casinos and the like.

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Bhima Jenkins

Its even more specific than that… it is casino card gambling. Lockboxes are exactly the same type of gambling as a slot machine. No one really knows the odds, we are all pretty sure they are cooking the algorithms, And the initial sunk cost to the casino is small, and the slot machine is ready 24/7 to be used infinitely, much like buying a lockbox key.

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Utakata

So it is gambling then? Which gets back to my first with it. :(

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TheDonDude

One of many forms of gambling. In this case, they argue it’s one of the worst forms.

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Utakata

Now that makes much more sense! I am not sure I agree with the degree severity of lockbox gambling poses to any individual, at least my pigtails can rest at ease that the circular paradox they where experiencing has dissipated. :)

Also Edit/Erratum: Which gets back to my first *issue with it…proper.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

This would be a reasonable point of view if the game developers were selling pixels, but they’re not. They’re selling a service, which is provided by the limited working hours of a finite number of people who work for them. They’re also selling the bandwidth and CPU cycles needed to host the game, which are not unlimited or free.

Lockboxes are a thing because game developers have to balance two conflicting realities: (1) they need to operate with a rock bottom price of admission so that lots of people who can’t or won’t spend a lot on video games are willing to play; and (2) they also know that a lot of their customers happily will spend a whole lot more than that bargain basement price of entry, if something is offered for them to spend more money on.

The hard simple fact that always gets left out of this discussion is that in real dollar terms, box prices for MMOs and monthly subscriptions have never been lower. Subscription rates have been anchored at the $15 standard rate forever, but $15 in 1999 dollars is more like $22 a month today. Box prices, for games that charge them, also are about the same as what they were two decades ago. Compare that with the price trend in the single player market if you want to see what the sticker price on MMOs should be today if they were trying to keep up with costs based on box sales and subscriptions alone.

With the level of competition in the market, even with the market being vastly larger than it was decades ago, games just can’t get the volume they need if they were charging $60 a box and $20+ a month for subs like they would have to just to keep up with inflation. Instead, they have allowed the prices to stagnate (in fact to decline in real dollar terms), and in many cases even lowered the entry price to zero just to compete.

Lockboxes, like everything else in every cash shop in every game that has one, are nothing more and nothing less than a way to close the gap between the price of entry developers have to charge in order to keep an online game running with a viable population, and the total revenue they need to generate to cover the costs of production and operation.

Lockboxes also don’t exist for people who feel they’re overpriced for what you get (or have a chance to get). They exist for people who don’t care about the value, and who are willing to drop $100 or $200 or $500 every month on a game knowing that the expected value they’re getting in terms of small chances to get more desirable items does not match the amount that they’re spending.

There are various reasons people would be willing to spend their gaming $$$ that way, and not all of them are super healthy. But the fact remains, people are willing to do it. As long as they are, and as long as game developers don’t have any other viable means of closing the $$$ gap, they’re going to market to that demand.

The best that can be said about the whole scheme is that at least it gives everyone playing the game the choice to be one of those people or to not be; everyone can pay what feels like a fair price to them, and the lowest price you possibly can pay is a lot lower than it would be otherwise, because plenty of people are willing to pay a whole lot more.

If you think lockboxes are a shitty value, you shouldn’t be buying them. You also shouldn’t expect them to go away any time soon. They’re not there for you. But they are there for other people who are happy to buy them, and always will be.

Full disclosure: I don’t buy lockboxes in any MMO that I ever have played, although I could afford to if I was so inclined. I don’t care much if a game has them, but I also don’t care to spend any of the money that I do put into a game in that way (though I have in some cases spent a lot more than the entry price in other ways, when I like playing a game and spending more gets me something that feels like a good value).

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Schmidt.Capela

You are ignoring a few things, though.

First, operational costs are far lower than two decades ago. I could call Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or any of the cloud computing providers nowadays and secure enough bandwidth and computational power to run something like Ultima Online for a tiny fraction of what running it cost two decades ago.

Second, the variable (aka per-customer) cost of distributing games digitally is close to zero. Which means selling a hundred copies of the game costs the company almost the same as selling a thousand copies. This is what enables F2P and makes Steam sales exceptionally profitable, BTW; reaching a thousand players that will, on average, spend $2 with the game brings more profit than reaching a hundred that will each spend $15.

Third, the market is much larger than it was back then; more people have game-capable devices, gaming is socially acceptable, and there are more people around overall. Which, together with the nearly zero variable costs, means that developers can sell their games for much less and still earn the same profits.

BTW, this doesn’t happen just with MMOs. If you look for old advertisements, AAA console games in the 90s cost between $60 and $70, which means they are cheaper today even if you don’t adjust for inflation. Similarly for most kinds of electronic entertainment: a Netflix subscription provides insanely more bang for the buck than just about anything available in the 90s, as does Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, and many other services modeled on those; there are literally thousands of very worthwhile Youtube and Twitch channels, free webcomics and news sites, repositories of public domain works (and other kinds of freely redistributed works) for everyone to enjoy; and so on.

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Bhima Jenkins

Great response, and I would also add a few other important factors:
1) Game making tools are more sophisticated: It takes less time/hours to make a polished game because the tools offer so much more control than they did 20 years ago when the dev team of each game company had to custom write their own tools. Having said that, to go beyond what is expected still takes a ridiculous amount of effort. But still, a small team can actually make a solid game now.

2) Game development is much more easy to port cross-platform now (thanks to all the consoles going x86), meaning a game ends up with a much wider potential audience than it used to.

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Mark Jacobs

Hate them, passionately.

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Utakata

This is a good indication that Camelot Unchained will at least not have lockboxes! <3

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Mark Jacobs

LOL, about the same chance as EA saying to me:

“Come back home Mark, we miss you!”

:)

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Utakata

…which is about the same chances as pigs flying in the near future I gather. :)

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Mark Jacobs

LOL, not even that high of a chance. I could see some mad scientist trying to crossbreed pigs and birds before I’d add lockboxes to Camelot Unchained.

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biophazer242

While I do not participate in them (unless it is a free box of course) I would love to see % rates on all contents of a box so a player truly knows just how much of a chance they have of getting that ‘epic’ thing. I would like to think that if people saw the very small % chance they would be less likely to gamble on them but of course I am probably wrong. Additionally, if companies were required to reveal these details we as consumers could keep an eye on things and see when they tweak the %s for/against our favor.

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Gadgets-4G

I do believe they are far worse than gambling for the reasons described. In addition to victimizing their own customer base. Selling items outright in a side shop is actually rude in itself when you recall that the games are released unfinished with the promise to remain unfinished and yet they’re charging you for additional shit.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Lockboxes arent gambling, they are more like those “no loss lotto”. Where you always get some crap for your paid money but have a slight chance to score big.

Also lockboxes dont require any skill. While some games that are considered gambling like poker actually require alot of skill (you can play poker for 30 years and still learn something new). Even in black jack you need to know basic strategy to loose the minimum

styopa
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styopa

Sounds like the sort of ‘nuanced point’ one gets from smoking way too much weed (or being a college freshman).

The entire ‘comparison to gambling’ thing sort of falls apart the moment one recognizes that there’s no actual scarcity in a video game.

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Schmidt.Capela

Which is, in the opinion of the blogger, what makes lockboxes worse than gambling.

With common gambling the house can’t give all patrons what they want (money), because it is naturally scarce; the publisher of a computer game, though, could give every player what they want because they could just make as many copies of the prize as needed without spending a dime.

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Melissa McDonald

I’m sure the success rate / quality varies by game, but I have to defend LOTRO’s chests/boxes here. I have ridiculously good gear from the loot boxes, stuff that you couldn’t even dream of back when the game launched. I’ve got a +43 Agility helmet at level 51, that’s insanely good compared to how the game used to be. And I don’t have any piece of gear under +27 Agility. Pretty much all from lockboxes, too.

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MesaSage

I have a couple of dozen lootboxes in my vaults. When a key drops from loot I open one. If no key drops, they sit and wait, and pile up.

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TheDonDude

None of this is anything new. Casinos aren’t the thing to compare to.

MMO Lockboxes are packs from a trading card game.

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Daniel Reasor

I’m honestly surprised that the notion of card packs as a form of lockbox doesn’t come up more in discussions of online trading card games. You’re right, the lockbox is there at the beginning. They’re the ante that you have to pay to even begin to play.

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Zen Dadaist

I’m more concerned with the context in which you find lockboxes to be honest. They -are- gambling, but it’s more insidious because of where and when you find them – in a video game as opposed to a dedicated gambling locale such as a casino. It’s obfuscation, and not having to publish odds just fuels the shadiness. There must be losers for there to be winners is kind of an innate setup for what gambling even really means. It’s all icky.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

There is a reason casinos have a minimum age requirement.

https://www.worldcasinodirectory.com/gambling_age_chart.htm

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I find myself pushed further and further away from mmos because of the gambleboxes. I don’t wish to support a developer who uses them as a means of revenue. So Valiance, MissingWorld, Project Gorgon, you are on notice. :)

If it’s the inevitable future of gaming then I’ll continue my avoidance as long as I can.

Until at the end of things, when I am reduced to playing Solitaire, and I am stuck at the end of a three card draw. If then on the screen pops up with a cutsie bow wrapped present and a digital voice, honeyed and chipper pronounces, ‘Win a CHANCE for more draws!’

Then, and only then, will I turn off the screen and pick up a gorram paper book.

It will probably be one on how western civilization have basically turned into the Ferengi.

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Tandor

I accept that with lockboxes there are no odds published, and that’s an area of communication where I think developers could remove a lot of the stigma attached to lockboxes – provided of course the stated odds weren’t too ridiculous!

However, there is one aspect in which lockboxes are over-demonised in my view when compared to other forms of gambling, and that is where lockboxes always contain items of reasonable value in relation to their cost and with (admittedly low) odds of getting something else really worthwhile. In most gambling you have a very low chance of winning and if you don’t then you get nothing in return for your money.

For example, when Crown crates came out in ESO I bought a few with my subscription crowns just to see what the fuss was all about. I didn’t get anything exceptional but I was perfectly happy with the assorted items I did get and didn’t feel ripped off. I didn’t see any reason to buy any more, but I didn’t regret buying the 3 or 4 that I had got. That’s very different to buying them with the hope of getting a particular item but ending up with absolutely nothing.

I appreciate that most players won’t consider the default range of items worth having, but then that’s something they can factor into their decision whether or not to buy the crates in the first place! Free choice is the key, and as long as lockboxes don’t contain essential items that can’t be got in-game then I don’t personally have a problem with them and welcome the additional revenue they generate from those who do consider them worthwhile, even if I don’t share that view.

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Carebear

the thing is that when you dont get what you want is like you get nothing… Am I supposed to be ok with some loot I am un-interested for? And since these “loot” is very common among losers, most of the times it doesn’t even worth to try and sell it, cause there are thousand of these items in the market.

My only experience with lockboxes is from swtor, where I spent several months of subscription cartel coins on lockboxes in hope to get the things I wanted. Since I played casual and just leveling classes to see the story, I didn’t had the million credits to buy what I wanted from the market, cause I didnt do any “endgame” dailies back then.

So yea, for me, getting some orange legs that had terrible skin and there were hundreds on the market for 500 credit.. is like I got nothing…

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wratts

I think that’s right on. There’s an assumption that people buying the lockboxes are only buying in the hopes of getting the rare item. That might be true, but I know when I (rarely) open one, all I’m expecting is the general stuff, and I’m aware there’s an outside chance for something more exceptional

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kidwithknife

Same. On the relatively rare occasion that I open a lockbox I do it with the assumption in mind that I’ll get the common stuff. Indeed, in the case of SWL I’ve specifically been looking forward to the common stuff.

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CthulhuDawg

“They choose to introduce these goods in a way that creates losers out of their customers who don’t get what they want and have to take more chances possibly still not getting what they want to really purchase what they’re trying to purchase.”

The key word there being “choose.” The person chose to spend $3 on a lockbox key knowing they may or may not get what they want. They chose to do that 20 times in order to get their pixel hat, or maybe not. Not every pixel can or should be available to every character, should we be going back and giving Kingslayer titles to everyone who has killed TLK post WoTLK? All I hear when I see people complain about “I spent $100 on lockboxes and I didn’t get my hat!” are adult children crying. Decide what your dollar means to you, decide if the entertainment you’re going to get out of that dollar is worth it to you, spend the dollar or don’t but I don’t have time to listen to you complain about your buyers remorse.

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Dobablo

The same applies to all digital products. The developer isn’t obligated to supply extra pixals because the marginal cost is zero. The product is scarce because the developer sets the price (and supply). For lockboxes, this artifical scarcity gives the average lootbox worth and your gamble spreads that worth randomly between lockbox buyers.
At is just an extreme situation of that faced by traditional manufacturers. The supply of goods that results in profit maximisation is rarely the maximum supply you could produce.

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BalsBigBrother

Lockboxes are primarily a way to support the game devs (or publishers I guess) financially with the rare chance you might get something nice in return rather than a way to get something nice and support the game devs financially.

The only guaranteed outcome of a lockbox is that you will give money to the devs and if that is fine with you then go ahead and have at it. If that isn’t fine then you would be better served hanging onto your money or playing something else with more agreeable ways to support a game.

I do occasionally buy lockboxes (mostly in PoE) but I do so with my eyes open and the knowledge that I am just handing over money to support the game with no expectation of getting anything worthwhile in return other than the continuation of the game (all being well).

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camren_rooke

I did not know PoE had gamble boxes. From their store I see they do, the Order and Chaos box.

Sad they too are going that route.

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BalsBigBrother

Well GGG being as they are and as Bree mentions they do try to do lockboxes as consumer friendly a way as possible.

GGG publish a list of what you can get from a box along with odds of getting each item. (https://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/1934998) Plus each item (with the odd exception) will always appear in the store for purchase at a later date though obviously at a higher price and they show what they expect to charge for the item when that happens.

I throw the odd $10 or so at them for these lockboxes and I do it primarily to give them some money in exchange for all the fun I get out of PoE. If I happen to get a nice costume piece then great but if not /shrugs I had my fun.

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Ken from Chicago

Lockboxes are worse than gambling. In gambling, you’re required to state the odds of winning. Lockboxes are not. They don’t have say what are the odds of getting some precious starship, legendary weapon or sparkly pony–or the low level “consolation” prizes / trash the studios deigns to include. Which serve a handy dandy purpose as fig leaves for said studios to hide behind and claim everyone can win from lockboxes–while knowing full well what most people really want.

Personally I infinitely prefer the clean, honest cash shop. They offer goods and or services and tell me how much it costs. No fuss. No muss. Straight up above the board. With the 20% ship sale discount STAR TREK ONLINE, I finally got my T6 Odyssey bundle. It’s my favorite starship in the game, in Star Trek (beating out STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE’s refit USS Enterprise, my favorite starship from the movies), and in general.

Yeah, I’m so not liking Perfect World games (STO, Neverwinter Online, Champions Online) flashing the screen when someone wins the big prize from a lockbox, but I’ve learned to mentally block that like Eliot in MR. ROBOT mentally replacing “E Corp” with “Evil Corp”.

I feel bad for those desperate for the lockbox grand prize who literally have no idea if to win they have to unlock the next lockbox or he next 100 or the next 1,000 or the next 1,000,000.

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Daniel Reasor

Next time you’re logged in to Star Trek Online, click the button on the lower right corner of the minimap that looks like an arrow. A drop-down menu opens up. Select “Notification Settings.” There you’ll find check boxes that toggle those fly-in announcements. Uncheck the box.

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Isey

I think the only fair way around this is to list the % chance of items. It needs voluntary regulation. So at least it is “fair”. Paladins is a game I have enjoyed and even bought crystals in. Their new skins are typically locked behind small chests, which have a limited number of items, and items don’t duplicate in those chests. So you at least have a range.

Of course, in a chest where I had 0/16 items and specifically wanted ONE skin, guess which chest it dropped on? The 16th. I have no idea of knowing if that is by design, or if it was just bad luck, and now I refuse to pay them any money. If they were upfront and said that that item had a 1 in 16 chance to drop then maybe I would play the game. But otherwise, that was the only thing I wanted anyway so would have way preferred they tell me straight up its $5.

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Dobablo

Of course, in a chest where I had 0/16 items and specifically wanted ONE skin, guess which chest it dropped on? The 16th

Never speak your desired outcome aloud. Lady Luck will hear you and you will be cursed to only get your desires on the final attempt!

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Kevin Smith

I agree with him. Personally I have stopped playing any game that has lockboxes with items that I can not get in game thru other means. I am fine with straight out cash shop and cosmetics, but the second you lock something behind gambling in a game that is the last straw for me. You can lock a cosmetic behind a cash shop and I will except that because if I truly want it I can pay the price that is listed, but if it was in the lockboxes you can end up paying 10 times or more to get the same item and still not get it. No thanks.

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Ken from Chicago

That becomes increasingly difficult given the increasing prevalence of lockboxes to mmos. I simply just don’t buy said lockboxes–or more specifically the keys to unlock them.

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Wolfyseyes

Oh, without question. If you’re going to sell things, I’d rather you SELL things instead of sell a thing that has a meager opportunity to provide you a thing if you’re lucky.

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MesaSage

Anyway you look at it, lockboxes are just spending unless there’s a way to convert your “win” back into the currency you traded for it.

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Ken from Chicago

No, it’s worse. “Spending” means you know what you’re giving money in exchange for. Lockboxes is pouring money down the toilet and hoping something nice floats back up–preferably in a waterproof container. ;-)

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MesaSage

So, by your definition, every Kickstarter is gambling. It’s just a spend. You gave money to somebody else. Value is something that you place upon it.

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Schmidt.Capela

The difference here is that with a Kickstarter it’s impossible to eliminate the uncertainty; the possibility of failure is inherently tied to making the attempt in the first place.

With a lockbox, though, whoever sells them could easily eliminate all uncertainty and give players what they want; instead, they chose not to, in order to snatch as much money from their customers as possible.

This is where lockboxes are worse (more “evil”) than regular gambling; a casino can’t give the big prize to all patrons because they can’t duplicate money, but a game publisher could easily give the big prize to every player because in a game you *can* duplicate anything.

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Sally Bowls

Except a game that wants to stay in business can’t. If logging into WoW/GW2/SWTOR you could get every single item you wanted, I don’t see how the MMO could stay in business.

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