But seriously, lockboxes suck, even if the ESRB doesn’t think they’re gambling. Stop buying lockboxes.

So, MMO players. Are you tired of hearing about lockboxes and gambleboxes? It feels like we’ve been complaining about them for like six or seven years now, probably because we have. It wasn’t cute back when City of Heroes was trying it, nope. Heck, it wasn’t cute back when Star Wars Galaxies was trying it with card packs. Now it’s every damn game, and it’s gone way beyond MMOs. I’m not sick of hearing about it myself. I’m just sick of dealing with it like a pestilence making me hate the games and developers who exploit them.

Maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: As more AAA online gaming studios figure out that lockbox gambling garbage is a fast ticket to easy money, more mainstream gamers are catching wind of the scam and raising objections, so it’s not just MMO players all by our lonesomes anymore. Indeed, this week multiple game critics, YouTubers, and review services have come out against lockboxes, from Boogie to TotalBiscuit, the latter of whom has called for ESRB intervention. Reviews aggregator OpenCritic has further said it’s “going to take a stand against loot boxes” by taking crappy business practices into account. The ESRB doesn’t care, by the way, and as blogger Isarii has pointed, the self-regulatory body has conveniently twisted the meaning of gambling to avoid dealing with the problem, thereby failing to protect us from it, but that’s just making people angrier.

So hey, you know what, studios? Keep screwing up with lootboxes. Keep attracting mainstream anger, keep disrespecting us, until it all boils over, one way or another, and you can’t exploit us anymore. And in the meantime, people? Stop. Buying. Lockboxes.

Justin and I had a long conversation about lockboxes as gambling on this week’s MOP podcast – start about 55 or 56 minutes in. Then we’re rounding up just a smattering of other places we’ve talked about the conjunction of lockboxes and gambling and why they suck so much. There’s even older stuff we wrote on Frankengadget – I like this one myself, written five and a half years ago by our own Justin Olivetti. They sucked then, and they suck now.

And now? The videos.

Source: GIbiz and VG247. Hat tip to Serrenity!
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256 Comments on "But seriously, lockboxes suck, even if the ESRB doesn’t think they’re gambling. Stop buying lockboxes."

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Alex Hurlbut

Lockbox is same as a prize vendor machine. You don’t know what you will get, but you always get something.

In actual gambling; you can lose it all, win some, or win it all. But you can lose and get nothing. That defines gambling.

That being said, if one game’s lockboxes have a chance to give you NOTHING at all; then it’s gambling.

Reader

Looks like the UK is going to tackle the issue next.

The British Parliament is examining the loot-box model in video games

Reader
Stiqman

The fact that video games are predominantly aimed at a vulnerable sector (minors) and that is where the “problem” lies, I hope this gets traction. If wealthy adult gamers want to drop $500 a month on boxes, it would be nice to allow them to, and keep government out of our personal lives… but if the outcome of allowing that is exposing vulnerable segments of society to exploitive practices, then there should be laws in place. This is the balance governance has to strike.

Reader

The ESRB really doesn’t think this is gambling? Even China is starting to regulate joke boxes. Companies at least have to disclose the crap ass chance of winning over there. Just like any other game of chance, lotto ticket or sweepstakes.

I think it should be regulated. I think it should be taxed more heavily and I think they should have to visibly disclose the odds of winning in the game, right next to the garbage they are peddling.

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Erik Heinze-Milne

Yeah, if CHINA is beating you to doing the right thing, you’ve seriously fucked up somewhere.

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Lethality

Yes they suck.

But I’ve been gambling on hockey cards and Star Wars cards ever since I opened my first pack in the 70’s hoping I wouldn’t get any dupes.

Nothing new here folks, just now the connected generation gets to bitch about it to make it appear as “outrage”… sigh.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

The problem with Lockboxes, and micro-transactions in general, are the whales. There will always be that 10% of players that spend 50% of the money on these things. If we’re going to fix this “problem” we can’t just say ‘don’t buy lockboxes’:

-If EA sells a million copies of a game at $60, they make $60M. If 10% of those people then spend an additional $60.00 on microtransactions they’ve made an additional $6M (for a total of $66M).

-If instead only 10% of those same people bought the game at all, they’d make $6M. This only jumps to $12M if every one of those people then goes on to buy an additional $60 worth of microtransactions.

These numbers are obviously examples but you get the picture. If we want this to stop, we cant just boycott the practice within the games: we have to boycott the games themselves.

fallwind
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fallwind

and all it will cost is that a $60 game would then cost $120 to make up the difference.

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Erik Heinze-Milne

Plus, the whales only spend so they can GET that advantage, whether by crushing less financially loose players, or by flaunting their “cooler than you will ever own” outfits. If the non-whales suddenly opt out, the whales will have no one to impress but each other, and they do not impress each other.

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Strana M

Went looking for a definition of gambling, this is what I found.

“The definition of “gambling,” unless changed by statute, consists of any activ-
ity with three elements: consideration, chance, and prize. If any one or more of
these elements is missing, the activity is not gambling.
Consideration can have many different meanings, as we will discuss shortly.
But, in general, there is no “gambling” unless a participant is required to risk
something of value.
The legal term for an activity where there is no consid-
eration should be “gift,” when a person gives another a chance of winning a
valuable prize at no cost. Much more common is “sweepstakes,” often called a
no-purchase-necessary sweepstakes. For gambling, each interested party must
have a chance of gain and stand a risk of loss.”

Now looking at the 3.
There is a Prize.
There is Chance. (and its luck based vs skill based)
Consideration seem the one part that can be argued since do both stand a risk of loss? Lockboxes don’t resemble a gift or sweepstakes so I would say there is consideration.

Other info I found seem to give an easy work-around to eliminate it from being gambling. That would be to allow people to way to open them for free. (GW2 has/had chance to get a key for lion chests as drops).

So my conclusion would be…. If there is some way in game to open/receive a lockbox for free, then its not gambling. If the only way to get/open a lockbox is to pay, then it is gambling.

fallwind
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fallwind

however you always get a reward, might not be what you want, but you can’t get nothing, so there is no risk of loss.

Reader
Chris Brown-DeMoreno

That paid lockboxes exist, even if there is a free alternative in the game, still consists of gambling. You’re just not forced to, nor are you always gambling.

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Cypher

Only ever bought lockboxes in swtor using my monthly cc stipend when I was subbed… “give unto caesar…” and all that.
The thought of handing over cash on top of a sub for the slim chance of something vaguely useful is, quite frankly, offensive!

Grave Knight
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Grave Knight

Doesn’t matter what the ESRB thinks when if we get another incident like the kid running up a credit card charge in the thousands. Motherhood groups will do what motherhood groups do and lobby against micro-transaction practices. If the ESRB and video game companies don’t deal with this soon we’ll all have to deal with this later.

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Dušan Frolkovič

Not that i do not want to see lock-boxes gone, but in that case i would place the blame squarely on the parents that allow their child to use a credit card unsupervised.

Grave Knight
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Grave Knight

Wait, do you really expect parents to actual do parenting? That’s what video games and TV are for.

silentumx
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silentumx

There are no lockboxes at http://www.relicsofcorbantis.com a Star Wars Galaxies server.

shazanti
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shazanti

I have always despised lockboxes, and they’ve just become more and more prevalent. I even dislike plain old lootboxes, where the game just gives you a box of random stuff that you open completely free of charge, because I’m not fond of that whole lockbox randomness… but I won’t really complain about those. I will just continue never purchasing lockboxes from companies that see me the same way that a casino sees its slot players… easy money pouring in from people mindlessly paying to pull the lever over and over and over again. Had enough of that when I worked in the industry, thanks so much.

I don’t mind microtransactions in general, though I wish they actually were MICRO. The definition of micro is ‘extremely small’. $20 for a single skin is not micro. That really irritates me, but at least you’re purchasing something explicit and not pulling the lever on a slot machine.