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.

Reader
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
Reader
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!

Reader
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.

Reader
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.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

A question to everyone. Assuming you are against gamble boxes.. do you think you should refuse to buy the spoils of them? For example, almost everything in TOR is from the gamble boxes. They occasionally sell them separately but the question still remains. If you are against loot boxes, should you refuse to buy the contents off of the GTN? Even though you aren’t spending RL money on the items, you are rewarding the person that is.

shazanti
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shazanti

Speaking about games in general vs. just TOR: I would never purposefully search for something only found in lockboxes. Mentally my brain just treats that as ‘not something found in my version of the game’ is I guess the best way to put it. If it weren’t a lockbox exclusive item, or I had no way of knowing that it was, then who knows, I might have purchased something that came from one. I don’t, however, search the GTN/AH for lockbox specific items.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

I understand the purpose of microtransactions. However I think they should only be in f2p and b2p games. On top of that there shouldn’t be any gamble to it.. you should buy exactly what you are after. Want that special holiday skin, 2 dollars later you’ve got it. You shouldn’t have to spend 30 bucks and sacrifice your newborn to RNGesus to get it. In GW2 I use to buy every skin (not costume) because I wanted to show my support. I NEVER bought the miniature boxes. I love vanity pets but I will not spend a dime on a random box. I did buy a fox though :3 but that was guaranteed.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

So if they don’t consider it gambling because you always win something… can we change casinos to where they give you penny if you lose. Wait not lose, just win less than you gamble… I mean… win less than you pay.

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Stiqman

Every ten year old that buys a pack of baseball cards and gets regulars or dupes just gambled and got less value than he paid…. but what value is in the joy of collecting itself? What value is in the chance to hit a rookie Aaron Judge? Or who gets to say what value the pack of cards is itself? The consumer decides the value… by buying or not. Loot boxes suck suck suck… but they are not gambling except in the loose/colloquial sense of the word.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

By loose / colloquial you mean literal definition right?

“take risky action in the hope of a desired result.”

If the ERSB wants gamble to only mean games of chance FOR money and not games of chance WITH money then we have a very small difference that might just be semantics.

And even though you gave the exact same example as the esrb, I still think it is a poor example. Cards are physical and can increase in value if the player does well or if the card printing company goes under. Also card shops allow you to sell and buy individual cards. You can trade and inherit cards too.

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Stiqman

No, I mean by the same definition that Walmart and every 7/11 isn’t shut down for running an illegal casino because they sell baseball cards to minors. Gee.. there must be a stricter legal definition of gambling than the colloquial use of the term. Just because you cant’ see it doesn’t mean the rest of society can’t. — I hate lock boxes too, but pick another argument. They are not gambling.

Used in the loose sense… I “gamble” when I leave the house in cloudy weather without an umbrella. And I do it constantly! But I don’t go to gamblers anonymous to break my “walking without an umbrella” addiction. There is a strict uses of terms, and there are loose uses of terms… being able to discern the difference is helpful in life.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

Yeah i understand, no need to be snarky and condescending. I’m saying it is a type of gambling not that you have a coin slot on your monitor. The British parliament seems to agree since they see it as a predatory mechanic set up to exploit children and vulnerable adults. Something gambling is known for. Hell booster packs are predatory in nature too. That’s why they are so flooded with “common” cards with one rare. I wouldn’t let my kid get into those any more than I’d let him drink, smoke, or get involved with any other addictive material. The only thing is most addictive things are regulated.

So I’ll agree that it’s the colloquial gambling if you’ll admit it’s addictive, predatory, and exploitative.

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Stiqman

Based on your “you mean literal definition right?” reply you clearly didn’t understand.

I already stated clearly how much loot boxes suck. I don’t need to belabor the point.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

Hey I just want to apologize. I went back and reread the thread and I think I may have been in a bad mood when I replied. Sorry, dude. Ignore my douchiness.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

K thanks for stopping by. Have a nice life. It’s not like there is not a TON of debate on what is gambling. It’s not like definitions change over time and this is how it happens. Good thing we have this beacon in the dark of correct definitions.

April-Rain
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April-Rain

Saved me £60, I won’t be buying the new battlefront which I was looking forward to.

Free to play, pay to win and loot box games are the worse especially if you have to pay a box price.

My old manager got addicted to gambling which started through fruit machine emulators and he started stealing from work to pay for his losses, he blamed us the work force but eventually got caught by a hidden camera.

He got fired but we lost that much money in a small buisness two colleagues with families got made redundant as a result to stop the buisness going under and to make up for the loss.

I hate gambling and I hate to see this being introduced through my biggest passion and aimed at children.

Loot boxes are a form of gambling and feed on the same triggers.

This so wrong and immoral it’s untrue.

OneEyeRed
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OneEyeRed

Do you remember the discussions we had in the old forums when F2P first came on the scene? How we talked about it destroying the MMO genre and leaking into other genre’s of gaming? Well, this is simply a continuation to this and its not going to get better. There is a reason subscription gaming has died; this is far more lucrative if it were not the case, sub’s would be amassing everywhere.

The crazy part is these same individuals that spend the money on this crap complain about a $15.00 a month subscription price yet spend vastly more amounts monthly, yearly on these mt’s, boxes, cash shops, etc.

As long as there is a market for it and people continue to buy in to the “got to have it now” mentality, it will only increase. If you research this market, (sadly) it is highly lucrative for these companies and it can triple the income coming in.

Yes I hate these tactics but I don’t want to tell “you” that you can’t purchase this or that or do as you please with your gaming. However, on the flip side of that, I shouldn’t have to feel like the only way I can get ahead or achieve, compete, etc. is to spend more. Furthermore, we are pounded from day 1 on the majority of games with DLC after paying full price for a game. Its a vicious circle no doubt.

I miss the days when I could simply long into a game, hang with good peeps and go on a journey to another world. People told me I was nuts when I said F2p would be the death of our beloved gaming but it certainly has the momentum in creating the snowball we have now. RIP beloved gaming worlds I once inhabited…

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haishao

F2P MMO are as old as MMO themselves. The first Free to Play MMO with micro-transactions released in 1997.

OneEyeRed
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OneEyeRed

Yea there were a few F2P games it started in Korea. But here in the USA the few games that were actually F2P (Runescape being one) were not played by any circle of gamers I was part of or knew. No one wanted to play Runescape or Maple Story. We all came from MUD’s way before F2P or MMO’s. We dabbled in Runescape but it was nothing special.

We came from Meridian 59 and Archmage and when we finally had to pay real money it was dialing into AOL and paying $10-$12.00 an hour (YES AN HOUR) to play NWN. Once UO came out we moved to that and then to EQ. Prior to all of this and further back in pre-WWW days we dialed into BBS and paid anywhere from $6.00-$10.00 an hour to be a part of what was a internet based on Universities and Government entities.

I guess I should have worded my post better and focused on the F2p model of the last 6 years and how it has steam rolled to the point it is now. I still believe it was a major beltway for all this garbage we are seeing today. Just my thoughts however.

April-Rain
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April-Rain

I remember being one of the few who was shouted down for letting my hatred of F2P be known on Massively and look where we are now.

I will always prefer a sub to whats on offer nowadays, but apart from wow we are left with very few games without this rubbish.

The golden years are well and truly gone.

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Jeffrey Meade

Ive never liked lock boxes. Its one of the things that pushed me out of Rift after playing for years. Initially when they came out I wasn’t a fan, but it was bearable. Then over time more and more crap was put in lock boxes and I started to hate it. You could say if it has no effect on game play then who cares, but I’m sick of logging into a game only to be beaten over the head with the 492673874 ways I can and should buy lock boxes. The system in Rift isn’t even that horrible, but over time its changed the game into something that I didn’t really care to play. Now this pestilence has moved over to new non MMO games like Shadow of War and Battlefront 2, both games that I want to play, but this is making me not want to spend money on their products. I’m tired of lock boxes in everything and the ESRB can go to hell for trying to weasel their way out of dealing with it.

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CthulhuDawg

If the content of lockboxes has zero effect on gameplay than there are no problems with them period. If the content of lockboxes has zero effect on gameplay and you’re still mad about them, then you’re just whining that someone got pixels you didn’t. Now if items you need for progression are locked behind a randomized pinata, that is an issue.

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Michael18

In addition to what Bree and Serrenity have said:

Do not just think of the boxes’ content. Even when leaving aside their content and its bad effects, the mere existence of lockboxes in a game world is detrimental because they are, by definition, lore and immersion breaking.

Even worse if they are not just added on top but actually replace common game elements or mechanics: in Star Wars Battlefront II, the opportunity for contributing to character building and the game’s atmosphere with a traditional progression system was given up in favor of having a system that has nothing to do with the lore and game world. (wow! The orcs I can recruit to my army live in those shiny little boxes! A miracle!)

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Serrenity

Is it really that clear though? What does ‘effect on gameplay’ mean, and is it the same for everyone? For you, that might mean a stat-advantage, but what if my game-play is focused around cosmetics which are almost always hidden in lock-boxes, requiring donations to the RNG gods. Or what if player housing is a driving motivation in my game and that’s hidden away in lockboxes?

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Ken from Chicago

What do you buy when you buy a lockbox? A chance at winning something? What chance? What precisely is the chance of winning the item being marketed?

If I subscribe, pay a lifetime fee, purchase something from the cash shop, I know what I’m getting. But with lockboxes, I wouldn’t know because–unlike with other kinds of gambling, there are regulations that require telling customers the odds of winning–the publishers, studios and developers FAIL to even meet the basic standards of “gam[bl]ing” by stating the odds.

I’m not for lockboxes even if I did know the odds just as I’m not one for other forms gambling. Then again, I’m not a PVP fan. But again, you know what you’re getting when you opt to face off against humans and even that degree of uncertainty can be managed by games matching players of various levels of skill and experience.

Lockboxes? Not so much. Sure, people love fatty unhealthy foods and while it would definitely be better off nutritionally if they avoided–and they wouldn’t continue to be sold so often if they weren’t so popular–but at least said foods are labelled to know what you are getting. I fail to see why lockboxes–if MMOs are going to continue to sell them–can’t be labelled to know exactly what the odds are getting the item(s) being sold.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

It absolutely is gambling, they’re doing some ridiculous Politician type excuse to say why gambling isn’t gambling, though I see why they’re doing it.

They are saying that if they did label the games as having gambling in them that it would bring the rating up to A-O and stop the game from being carried in many stores. So they know it’s gambling, they just can’t afford to label it as gambling.

Maybe they should come up with another word for it other than “Digital Purchases” though as straight purchases are far different than Loot Boxes.

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Stiqman

Seriously, its not gambling. They suck, should be boycotted, hope they disappear and never come back. but it’s not gambling any more than a 10 year old buying a foil pack of baseball cards is “gambling.” There is an actual legal and social definition for gambling, and then there is the sloppy/casual way in which the word is used in everyday conversations… but they are not the same thing.

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Mallus

I never buy lock boxes, although I do like opening them if I happen to get one for FREE. I would rather pay a little more and buy exactly what I want, or just wait for it to drop from something in the world (auction houses). What really makes me angry is when item’s are exclusive to lock boxes only…

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Zen Dadaist

Hear hear!

Seriously people: STOP BUYING THE GODFORSAKEN THINGS.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

It is not just buying these. It is buying games with these in them. Overwatch was a GotY when it released….and it came with these in the base. That just sells the idea to every other developer that it is okay to have this stuff in there.

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Fenryr Grey

I truly hope for a “black-Friday”or maybe even a “October-revolution” scenario for this industry. It’s time that EA,UBI and freaking WB just get burned down. The key lies to persuade /educate our young lings to get on board against those shitty practices. Nobody but the suits gain something from this crap.

Did the ESRB opened a dictionary even once or were they hidden under a pile of corporate cash?

I don’t buy any AAA titles until those corporations take a clear stance against those harmful practices. Considering F2P MMO’s: I have been laughed at and attacked (even on this site) for speaking my concerns about this model. So at last I’m happy to have in some of you brothers and sister in arms.

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Dušan Frolkovič

As long as people buy lockboxes they will exist. The End.
You want to try to show the publishers they suck?
Don’t buy them, AND more importantly, buy the other stuff they offer.
MMOs will never be free, they need to feed the devs somehow.

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Jeffery Witman

Skinner boxes with fancy graphics. If they’re using lock boxes it’s because they don’t have anything worth actually selling to you and they’re hoping you don’t notice.

The most egregious example this year has been the Secret World relaunch. Free awesome story is cool, but almost everything they’re selling in game is overpriced. Their lockboxes offer very little because they have insanely low drop rates, but still contain exclusive and BiS items. Worst of all, lock boxes are the only regular loot dropped in the open world besides museum collectibles. It’s truly sad.

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starbuck1771

Here is what I find funny about this situation. 1: Nobody started complaining about this in console games until it happened to Star Wars Battlefront 2. 2: The fact that this has been happening in the battlefield and call of duty games for a few years. 3: The players enabled cash shops so they have nobody to blame but themselves for this.

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Carebear

I d say stop supporting f2p games and support subscription ones, because of the nature of the business model…

even if they remove lockboxes they will find another irritating way to make money. Thats what naturaly happens when not having a steady income.

There was a time, few years ago, that f2p was considered the MMO Jesus and praised from everyone, even the journalists and mmo sites.

Also there was some kind of “trolling” and “boycot” toward games that opted to start as a subscription pay model.

Here we are now, gathering our own “seeds”. I know its hard to drop your favorite MMO because is f2p, but we need to change the tide again.

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starbuck1771

Good luck with that they are mainstream now.

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starbuck1771

All I can say is https://youtu.be/C6cxNR9ML8k enough said!

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Kickstarter Donor
Rees Racer

I played the Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta quite a lot the last several days. I’m not particularly adept at FPS (ground combat) games, but excelled more often than not in the Galactic Assault Starfighter portion (due in no small part to my extensive play in War Thunder air combat).

I didn’t quite understand what these crates were all about in a game with an initial premium cost to purchase, so I reckoned you earned the crates daily/normally and could be bought with in-game credits by playing , but surely (SURELY!), they were not going to sell these things for real money. I wasn’t ultimately convinced to pre-order, or even purchase the game at launch, but this sort of nonsense is unacceptable (to me). Such a fun Star Wars experience, too…ruined.

I never buy loot boxes (or keys) of any kind. I will open the ones where I earn free keys, and will occasionally purchase loot box items put on an in-game market (e.g. Star Trek Online).

aleccia_rosewater
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aleccia_rosewater

If the keys had to be farmed for rather then purchased then you would suddenly have a mechanic that keeps people busy. I have a blue crate and a red key, does anyone want to trade for a blue key?

Unfortunately, it would take a massive amount of pressure to make corporations back down on lockboxes. Corporations cannot do it themselves even if they wanted to; CEOs are too easily replaced~

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Utakata

I think it will take well place legislation to deal with this issue. And good luck with that! :(

…meanwhile I am starting feel might guilty for selling all those free lockbox keys I got in TERA for a small fortune. I may have been inadvertently feeding and encouraging a really bad habit. /sigh

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rafael12104

Hmm. I understand why you feel guilty. But, in my opinion you are hardly the dealer.

And, it’s not like every key was used to corrupt the unsuspecting. As I have mentioned before, many use lock boxes understanding what they are. It’s not a viral thing.

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Utakata

Edit/Clarification: I mean ingame fortune and not with RMT.

Reader
Annoyed badger

Lock boxes are a massive no to me, it put me off GW2 to the point I stopped playing.

I wont touch a single player game wiht them in at all, and I will be put of MMOs with them in, and wont play when they are a significant part of the loot system.

If you want me to buy something, put a price on it, and sell it to me. I WILL NOT pay for an RNG chance when I dont know the odds….

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Mr_Planthead

I will spend $5 on lockboxes in three different games rather than spend $15 on a subscription for one game any day because the f2p game with lockboxes I can play next month without spending a dime but that sub game now cost $30.

I think it’s insane that people will spend $180 in a year on that one game with subs

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Carebear

In what parallel universe you can play a f2p game without spending a dimm?

The only benefit of f2p is when you are bored and you think that it will be fun to play x mmo, you downloaded, but after logging in for a few hours you realize that is not as you thought and you are still bored. You walk away without paying a dimm.

But if you are going to play this mmo “seriously” for over a month, you are gonna need to pay for something.

Estranged
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Estranged

I prefer a BTP like Destiny in which the cash shop is unnecessary and has just a few items that can be RNGed by playing the game. Same goes for Overwatch.

We have to compromise in this life and this seems better than a triple dip like WoW. Box price, sub price and cash shop.

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rafael12104

*Sigh* Time to weigh in. My apologies in advance if my language is “fucking” colorful. But emotion, it is strong with this one. Oh, one more thing before I start, don’t let colorful names fool you. Lock boxes aka loot boxes come as cards, shops, even npcs and not just boxes.

There is no better way to monetize any game than lock boxes. Think about it, they are selling RNG and people are buying. They are fucking buying RNG! And the beauty of it, because it is random, more microtransactions will occur on top of those initial sales until players get what they need. It is a way to double, tripple or more their net.

And it gets better. Games like Battlefront 2 have the balls to ante up further by making progression in the game, leveling if you will, an item in a loot box. The difference between players will be based on how many loot boxes are opened… Let that sink in for a second.

So unwrap yourselves from the gambling arguments for a moment and look at the bigger picture. Monetization and microtransactions are what is out of out control.

But the real shame of it is, that while nobody will boldly admit to buying into such bullshit gamers are eating it up. That’s how we got here. It’s like gold from gold farmers. Nobody admits to buying it, and yet, there is no doubt that it is happening.

And as for the ESRB? Are you fucking kidding me? They rate games. That’s it. That’s their mandate.

Look, I’m for freedom of choice. I hate loot boxes, but if they are a choice and innocuous to those that who aren’t willing to spend, fine. But given the latest developments, loot boxes are becoming less optional if you want to continue to play a game. We are down the slippery slope now that started long ago as DLCs and Season Passes.

On a more personal note: EA, I’m fucking done with you. I’m not purchasing BF2. Screw that. And, I just cancelled that bullshit Origin sub I had to allow me to play some games for free and others early. Because, you see, I do have an option. Shadow of War, NBA 2K18 is the same shit but single player, right? Yeah, keep your shit and your loot boxes.

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Utakata

Do you really think this is the best way for game companies to monetise their overhead? Or just one of the easiest ways?

I mean there has to be a better way of meeting their bottom line than this. It seems all a bit too fatalistic and cynical, IMO.

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Vincent Clark

I’d argue it’s the easiest/quickest. Shamefully so.

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rafael12104

Good question. I’m no expert but I do work with SW engineers. And yeah, it certainly can be a thankless job because it is hard. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle where gamers want to keep changing the puzzle.

But on the business end, it is no different than most corporations I know. Management makes decisions based on meeting their numbers and care little about the long term impact of their choices or care what the rank in file have to endure afterwards. It’s just a cost of doing business.

So, microtransactions, loot boxes, gaming as a service, all catch phrases of the same thing really. How monetize, expand, and sustain revenue streams with out new development costs. There eyes light up I’m sure when the hear and see this.

And in my experience, they are sheep. This is the new direction because a few big players are heading this way. Many just follow along instead of thinking about adding value to the subs or giving back to loyal fans.

IMO, if they worried more about their brand, that thing that keeps customers coming back, they would look to grow and expand and do all of those things without alienating customers. But why would EA worry about it’s brand? It has been in the dumpster for years and still people come back when they offer something new.

So there is a better way. Players will buy plenty out of shops or as microtransactions. There is no need to force them with lock boxes. Add value to being a loyal player or a sub and people will keep spending. This works in the f2p arena too, btw. Maximize longterm profits by making customers feel good about their game.

Sadly, what is more likely is that they will turn a quick buck because they know that players will buy their loot boxes and games anyway. IMO, it’s the same phenomenon as gold farming. Nobody says they buy, but the bean counter books beg to differ.

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Utakata

I gather it doesn’t take a large percentage of lockbox key purchasers to make that quick buck ship float either. /sigh

what-4
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what-4

I have been in Vent/Discord/somevoip with a guy who would drop up to a grand at a time on boxes in ArcheAge. Depending on what was in the box that fortnight. He made more money than he knew what to do with and was to stupid to invest or save it.

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rafael12104

Indeed. You are quite right about that. Many that purchase them will likely continue to purchase them.

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squidgod2000

Get game ratings sites like Metacritic to assess a 10 point/percent/whatever penalty on any game that includes lockboxes.

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cista2bpo

Never seen one :)

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Chris Mc

Yeah, no doubt they suck. Drug dealer devs.

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Its not just MMO’s now either they are creeping into single player rpg games too, just look at Shadow of War.

Emmanuel Carabott
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Emmanuel Carabott

The ESRB is so face palm inducing sometimes, hey by the same reasoning even lotteries are not gambling…. sometimes you get a paper worth millions (winning cheque) and sometimes you get a paper worth next to nothing (the actual ticket) depending on the luck of the draw… considering the size of the papers involved it would probably actually be closer to a card game then loot boxes!

*shakes head*

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

When the whale oil runs out so will the lockboxes and all the other micro transactions that infest games currently but then so will FTP.

The games industry as a whole is getting so large, wealthy and controversial that it will inevitably attract further regulation. In fact it already is outside the US.

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mistressbrazen

Will the oil run out? I don’t know. I think it only runs out when the whale get disenchanted and moves to a new game. But the whale gets incentives to stay so…how will that ever work out for the non-whale players?

I’m also not sure that the death of FTP would necessarily be bad. In what other industry do consumers expect a company to make something for them and give it away for free?

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Serrenity

When you think about it, there are only a (relatively) small number of people who are willing become Whales in game. And realistically, they probably don’t go in saying, “I’m going to spend $2,000 on this ‘free2play’ game.” But if we assume (and I think it’s a safe assumption), that the people who are whales are a small number of players (on average, 2-4% of the entire player base), then there’s always going to only be so many people to go around. As the market dilutes and the whales go to their personal choice in games, that 2-4% continues to dwindle, making the whale-monetization option unsustainable.

More education, awareness and people who ‘learned their lesson’ will also continue to shrink that number. Eventually, publishers will be required to actual create experiences that people want to play instead of exploitative cash-shop mechanics to turn a profit. Or go under. ya know, either or.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

There was an interesting article on gamasutra some time ago which was suggesting that the mobile FTP market revenues were declining and costs were rising. Maybe the supply is reducing :)

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Serrenity

It seems like the quality of some mobile games is finally increasing, so hopefully that means we are getting out of the quagmire that industry sh*tstains like Glu mobile created for the “hurry up and wait” gameplay mechanic.

So … hopefully?

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mysecretid

I’m tired of loot boxes too (mainly because all the good stuff in games seems to get put into them now, instead of, you know, being put into the actual game), BUT …

… the legal definition of gambling, wherein one must actually be able to lose (i.e. receive nothing) for their money, is a lot older than the loot box phenomenon.

It started with carnival and fair games, I believe. It’s why you always get a crappy sticker or a pin after you try (and fail) to knock over the bottles with the baseball to win a giant stuffed animal.

So long as you are given some kind of prize for your money, it’s not legally, technically considered gambling because you haven’t legally, technically lost (i.e. received nothing).

You may well disagree with this legal definition of gambling, but that’s how it works right now.

Oh, and the reason you couldn’t win that gianr stuffed animal? The bottles are weighted and placed in such a way as to make them especially hard to knock over. It’s part of why they’re not transparent. (my grandfather briefly worked in a carnival).

Cheers,

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Serrenity

The legal definition I found actual doesn’t require a lose state to be gambling. Only a wager against something of value. (see my post further below).

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Jon-Enee Merriex

I fear most people who complain about this aren’t really concerned with the actual legal definition of things. They also fully fail to offer any reasonable alternative. So it just comes down to “ZOMG I HATES THIS, BAN IT, SOMEONE”. Which really doesn’t move the conversation forward.

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Jon-Enee Merriex

As I’ve said before, if players actually paid the full price for content creation, then you wouldn’t really see a need for this. However, the marketplace is dense and players are unwilling to spend even $15 a month anymore. So the people who are willing to spend $100s to support the game as long as they get something of value will win.

A colleague pointed out that had game box and sub prices kept up with inflation, consumers would be regularly paying $75 for a standard edition and $25 a month for a sub. Of course, “Deluxe McAwesome Edition” would be more.

However, we live in a world where people who have paid $0 demand more content, so…

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Arcanum Zero

It seems cynical to me to say that players are unwilling to spend $15/month anymore, when WoW and FFXIV are still out there chugging along. Clearly, there is content that some players are still willing to pay $15/month for.

It seems far more likely that publishers are unwilling to take a risk on the admittedly massive time and effort required to create that content. They cut corners, perhaps understandably, and players are unwilling to spend $15/month for their product, perhaps understandably.

Maybe it’s my turn to be cynical, but I don’t think lockboxes are attractive to boardroom types because they get bought often and in quantity. I think they’re attractive to boardroom types because their development cost is essentially nil, so if they /do/ get bought, all of that revenue is profit, regardless of frequency or quantity.

I actually agree about the $75 box price, though. Video games have been $60 for a long time.
It’s unfortunate that wage earning /also/ hasn’t kept up with inflation, so a 25% increase in the price point of a luxury purchase is still seen as unaffordable. But frankly that is a much bigger problem, with far more unfortunate impacts on society. I’m not going to shed tears for the AAA game industry.

Estranged
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Estranged

Jon – they aren’t considering that bandwidth and hardware is much cheaper and easier to maintain today.

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Jon-Enee Merriex

While that may be the case, that artist that creates that cool costume now costs the company 3 times as much after benefits, perks, etc. And there are more of her than servers.

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rafael12104

I appreciate your disclosure below. And you know, that’s fine. I think most of us are certainly aware of rising costs and the ability for devs to turn a profit is harder now given the tech and expectations based and previous outstanding games.

But, good gravy man, look at EA with a critical eye. Look at what they are doing with their latest releases. This is beyond profiteering. They are taking advantage of us by using methods that double and triple their margins by using the allure of a winning roll and the threat of no advancement in the game.

And let’s be honest, sunken costs, cost related to the intial development of games are recouped if a game is successful. And brand loyalty is also achieved so that future earnings can be realized IF the devs deliver.

There is an opportunity here for devs to go against the grain and show they are not loot box dealers. Show gamers that there is no nickel and diming rng and they will reward you with purchases now and in the future.

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Jon-Enee Merriex

I’m not defending anything. I’m just pointing out an abject truth I’ve seen. Players will not pay what things are actually worth because they see them as “digital”. To be more specific NA players won’t. German players will. I can be sure that players in Germany will pay a fair price for what is created. But here, we want everything to be as cheap as possible. That is part of the reason we’ve got here. There is a wholesale refusal to just admit that that thing is worth more than a $1 random box.

The flip side to this is the reality that businesses are not people. They exist to make money. So telling players how much something costs to develop isn’t something businesses are interested in. Which leads to there being no understanding of how pricing actually works by players. So players purchase emotionally, while businesses price unemotionally. This disconnection creates the reality we live in.

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rafael12104

True. I work on the other side too as a program manager that includes SW dev. But, as you probably know, corporations aren’t so dispassionate. They are passionate about beating their projected earnings. All things being equal that isn’t a bad thing. But things aren’t equal. Companies cut quality corners, release buggy products, and pass along issues to customers knowing full well that they it may have an negative impact on them. Loot boxes are more of the same really when used to gate progression.

What I propose is to price things fairly, and add value back to brand loyalty. The gaming industry has lost that. Monetize, sure. That isn’t the problem. Monetize using loot boxes and you lose more of that customer trust at this point.

In fact, go out of your way to advertise that you will not use loot boxes and you may get some traction.

It’s not that simple when you have marketing in finance involved. Lol. But long term profits can be a good motivator.

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Arktouros

The subscription model just doesn’t work. It’s pretty much impossible to design $15 worth of content that will keep people entertained for 30 days no matter how you move those numbers around. I mean look at GW2. They came out with an entire expansion and the whole thing can easily be done within a month top to bottom all the content. They’ve been working on that thing forever and $30 for 30 days of content. Worth it, but man…those numbers just don’t add up when you start looking at a subscription.

So while on the one hand I have sympathy for the developers on the other I don’t think that justifies practices like lockboxes. However I’m also someone who sees $35 costumes in BDO and doesn’t throw a fit about that either.

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Bhima Jenkins

Your colleague failed to also point out that:
1) There are more potential gamers today than there were 10-20 years ago
2) Selling an extra copy of a game has a marginal cost to the publisher that is effectively zero. Its not like making another iPhone… its just copying data onto a disc at WORST, and as the trend continues it isn’t even that. Its just an extra blip of bandwidth as someone downloads your game.
And one more,
3) Game development tools are much more sophisticated and you can now port video games with much greater ease today across multiple platforms compared to even just 10 years ago. This adds even more to my #1 point.

So although costs to make a AAA game have risen while box prices stay the same, the sheer number of units moved today due to my points above absolutely more than make up for this.

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Jon-Enee Merriex

You fail to understand costs. Artist, writers, coders, engineers, testers, designers, actors, they all make more money today than they did 10 years ago. Additionally, you need more of them than you did 10 years ago. And that is with companies low-balling people as much as possible.

That doesn’t even begin to talk about marketing costs which have skyrocketed in the past decade. So no, your point doesn’t stand. Not even close.

miol
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miol

if players actually paid the full price for content creation, then you wouldn’t really see a need for this.

Right, like $60 Star Wars Battlefront 2, yet with F2P lockboxes monetization?!

A colleague pointed out that had game box and sub prices kept up with inflation, consumers would be regularly paying $75 for a standard edition

With all the ripped out content sold as DLCs, Season Passes, Cash Shops and RMT, we’re already lightyears beyond that!

Here I took the liberty to update the illustration to Star Wars Battlefront 2 standards, and mind you all the hot air between the lockboxes making it only seem like more content, but if you cared to sum up the costs, you would assume you would get that much more:

m.jpg
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Jon-Enee Merriex

@Bree I point to this guy when I say people don’t like DLC either.

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Utakata

Lol at graphic! :)

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Ket Viliano

The Federal Reserve and the BLS claim there is no inflation at all, meanwhile the cost of roast beef at the deli has gone from 7.00 to 15.00 over the past 10 years.

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Jon-Enee Merriex

Full disclosure, I work in the video game industry and have for over a decade.

kjempff
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kjempff

Lockboxes get too much focus, it is just a small part of the real problem which is mixing ingame economy mechanics and real money. I do appreciate there are people speaking against it, but with or without lockboxes I don’t see any real difference. Most shop solutions are a kind of a gamble/scam, you buy a product which you don’t know the real price of and also not what you get for that price.

Monetization model should be an important part of how you review a game, on a personal level and also professional reporting should describe and weigh in monetization details.
Lockboxes should of course be a negative count, but also varying negatives depending on severity, for example buying game currency, ingame items, ingame access to features or areas, double xp, insta max level and so on, but also less invasive monetization such as visual enchancements and microtransactions.

Just question the games you play and have its monetization specifics be a part of your decision process. Weigh in how much are you willing to take it up the arse compared to how good the game is.

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Arktouros

Telling people to not buy lockboxes is pretty pointless. Developers put them in game and design them rewards that will end up with people purchasing them.

The best we’re going to hope for is the ability to see the % chances of receiving virtual items out of crates in games. However I have basically zero faith that will ever happen with how much money influences the US government and the big development companies have a hell of a lot more money than any of us ever would to influence that (LOL “Big Game” interest groups…the idea just cracks me up).

As much as I hate the game, I have to give it to ESO for having probably the best lockbox system I’ve seen to date. The ability to sell off the garbage you don’t want into currency to directly buy what you do want is pretty top-notch.

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Serrenity

At some point along the way, I guess this became a big issue for me, as I’ve pummeling Bree with a million and five articles about lockboxes as I come across them. The rub for me really comes down to the fact that lock-boxes aren’t fun. They are manipulative tools designed wholly to generate more revenue for a publisher without providing anything of value to the player. It artificially creates scarcity where none exists, and we trust these publishers who have already shown to be exploitative to play fair with us, despite the fact that we have no real reason to expect that and more than a few reasons to expect that publishers are deliberately not playing fairly with us.

Lock-boxes increasingly are becoming required to play games as more and more content is locked behind them, again not because it makes more interesting gameplay, or that it benefits the player in anyway – it just generates more revenue. It’s a shortcut – instead of generating revenue by creating games / experiences / virtual worlds that people want to pay for, they’d rather create one-off things and hide it in a lockbox to generate more revenue. There is not a single game that I can think of that I can say the game was improved as a direct result of having lock-boxes.

I’m lucky enough to have disposable income. I would give that income to a game company that was honest with me, produced content I wanted to enjoy, and enabled me to get that content without going through lock-boxes. It’s an abusive and exploitative practice that further is just exploiting the fact that the law hasn’t caught up with the times in games, and so legislatures don’t even know about them.

I dunno; Long Live Great Games, and F*ck the lock-box. Those two things are, in my opinion, mutually exclusive.

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mistressbrazen

exactly right. In the TSW forums, you used to see players posting, “please Funcom, I am begging you to take my money!” We were an older than usual gaming community where many players had disposable income. I developed a nearly 3 page marketing plan for them with the assistance of a marketing professional and sent it to them. Not a single one of the suggested monetization strategies required them to lay out cash up front. What did Funcom do? Offer t-shirts primarily in men sizes only…. oh and gift bags (aka lockboxes). sigh….

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Tandor

If you don’t like a game having lockboxes, then you’re free not to play it. But please, don’t tell everyone else what to do. Also, let’s not confuse lockboxes that always give you some return (often at least equal in value to their cost) with forms of gambling that give you nothing unless you win.

If you’re worried about kids being let loose on gambling with their parents’ credit cards, then by all means have a go at the parents for not exercising proper control over their kids and their credit cards.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

There’s a reason why legalized gambling is restricted to those 21yrs and older. The addictive nature has been scientifically proven to be harmful/more affecting on those of a younger age. This is due to their brains not being fully developed until older ages.

And it’s not limited to gambling either: alcohol, cigarettes (tobacco), cannabis (where state legal). All these have an age restriction for a reason.

One argument from Total Biscuit’s video was that by adding a gambling addiction feature such as lockboxes to a game, the game itself should be rated M-Mature and sold as such with a classification label on the box. This would forewarn consumers of the addictive nature of those lockbox mechanics as well as prevent uniformed sales to children.

P.S. MassivelyOP is a news blog, but still a blog. Occassionally they’ll have opinion pieces such as this. It is every ounce their own right to post an opinion of advocating against the purchase of lootbox games. You, on the other hand, have no right to come in here and tell them what to or what not write. Your disagreements certainly can be heard, but not a straight out dictation of what is or isn’t posted. If you’re so such against it, you can opt to actively protest it by not visiting this site, essentially giving it click traffic and ad revenue. Problem solved?

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drgreenhoe

I greatly dislike lockboxes. Period. It is a form of gambling any way you look at it and should be regulated like all other forms of gambling.

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Sally Bowls

How about a poll on your lockbox purity?

  1. Thar she blows!
  2. I will buy them occasionally
  3. I will use RL$ currency that I got with my sub or quest reward (but sometimes for other reason buy more currency with RL$)
  4. I will use RL$ currency that I got with my sub or quest reward (no extra RL$)
  5. I will use ingame(no RL$) currency to buy keys/boxes
  6. I only use free keys that drop in game
  7. I do not open lockboxes with free keys that drop in game
  8. I do not play games with lockboxes
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Thomas Zervogiannis

No “Elf Butts”? Is it locked in a lockbox?

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Sally Bowls

lol. Mea Culpa. I am an amateur and should leave this to the professionals.

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Sally Bowls

Everyone hates Lockboxes in games they don’t like; what about in the ones you do?

Horrible character flaws in opposition politicians are just inevitable foibles in your friends and don’t even exist in you.

In a couple of months, the voting will be for the MOP MMO update of the year award. Will lockboxes even be something you consider? Will you vote for ESO or GW2? 13 YO kids can go ecto-gamble in a GW2 casino but it’s SWTOR cartel packs that are corrupting?

What message are you sending devs if you really, really, don’t like lockboxes yet still play their game that hs lockboxes? Why in the world would the business ever refrain from having lockboxes??? They get all the lockbox sales from people who like lockboxes and it does not cost them anything as even the most anti-lockbox people will still play their game. I see a big difference between “I don’t believe in X” and “I don’t believe in X but am not willing to be inconvenienced by my beliefs” If you really strongly feel that alcohol is immoral and corrupting, then IMO you might consider not dining in bars.

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mistressbrazen

So I recently had to make this decision when Funcom relaunched TSW into that bastardization called SWL. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the re-launch but I tried it any way because I loved TSW so much. I clenched my teeth and worked with the horrible new combat, the mauling of the game environment and the dumbing down of game play (oh sorry, I think the word was “accessibility” of game play) . At first, I opened the lockboxes because , what the heck, I had free keys. But, after 3 weeks of that…I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want the crap in the boxes and if I didn’t collect them my visual play field was just littered with those purple glowy things. It became the straw that broke the camel’s back. I have always argued that players need to speak with their wallets and I had to be true to what I preached out loud. As you all know, SWL is no longer in my game rotation.

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Serrenity

It depends on the level of shadiness with the box. Is there an item that I want that can only be obtained through gambling boxes? I’m not going to be a happy camper (and it pisses me off in GW2 to no end … prolly one of the reasons I only play in small bursts). If they are there but don’t have crap I want, I can generally ignore them. But if I’m being honest, gambling boxes are why I can’t bring myself to play Star Trek Online. I want to love that game, but the constant spam and 11 billion different gambling boxes just … irk me until I stop playing.
ESO’s gambling boxes don’t bother me too much because it seems like they were stapled on to an already complete system, so their impact feels pretty minimal.
Overwatch lockboxes can’t impact gameplay, and all but the holiday event skins are attainable just by playing the game, which I’m cool with.

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Schmidt.Capela

For me it depends on what is in the lockboxes. If anything I actually, truly, want is only obtainable from lockboxes (or by purchasing from someone that got it from a lockbox) then I will immediately leave the game. On the other hand, if the lockboxes don’t contain anything that I truly want, or if any such items can be obtained through other means that don’t ever involve opening a lockbox or similar gambling device, then I simply pretend the lockboxes don’t exist.

And yeah, I do this even if the game doles out some lockbox keys for free.

plasmajohn
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plasmajohn

Funny you mention SW:TOR. They were so in love with their gamble box concept that their 5.0 release mutated end-game gear progression into …. gamble boxes! Heck the interface to open Command Crates is a thin reskin of the one they use for their cash shop boxes.

The 4.0 mechanics convinced me to resub… 5.x chased me away probably for good.

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mysecretid

In my crankier moments, I joke that Star Wars: The Old Republic is now an online cash-shop with a little Star Wars game on the side …

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Leiloni

I don’t like them in games I do like. It’s one of the things that gets me to quit games I otherwise enjoy.

I remember when TERA went F2P and a few months later I started noticing cash shop items I didn’t like. I tolerated it for a while but eventually they fell too far down the slippery slope and I quit. I didn’t quit because the gameplay wasn’t fun, but because the cash shop ruined my experience and I wasn’t willing to shell out tons of money to remain competitive, and I didn’t have the time to no life it all day to keep up.

On the topic of ecto gambling, isn’t that just gambling in game items for other in game items? I think that’s a different topic because it doesn’t involve real money. That I would put on the same level as RNG enchanting systems you see in Korean MMO’s. I’m not sure if that bothers me because it just comes down to more grinding, which is what games are all about anyway. It’s annoying, but I’m not sure I’d say it’s immoral or something we need to regulate.

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Leiloni

But seriously how long did it take you to find all lockbox related content? Because holy cow!

But I agree they suck. I hope we can get some restrictions around them soon so we don’t see as many of them.

I think even something as small as requiring all games with lockboxes to have an 18+ rating would at least put a dent in there, because few developers are going to want to put an M rating on their games. It would be a start anyway.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

that’s what good tagging discipline is for! :D

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trekfangrrrl

Star Trek Online player here. I dont mind the boxes as long as I have a way to get the prize without gambling myself. Someone else gambles, then sells me the prize for in game currency. Why not? That way we both win, and I take no risk.

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Leiloni

Well that’s P2W/P2Progress/legalized RMT – whatever you want to call it, you’re making the other player richer and thus more powerful when you pay them that in game gold. That’s not quite fair to have to make that sort of trade.

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Sally Bowls

But isn’t that another issue? A “large” majority of MMO players are in a game where you can legally turn RL$ into game currency: EVE, WoW, SWTOR, GW2, WS, BDO, …

Fair or not, this and paying for level boost, seem a standard part of MMOs, regardless of lockboxes.

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trekfangrrrl

How is that any different from how every auction house works in every MMO? Someone sells some “rare” item they looted to someone else for in game gold.

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Schmidt.Capela

The difference is that someone had to open a lockbox in order for that item to be sold in the game’s AH.

I, for one, won’t ever purchase for in-game gold an item that can only come from a lockbox, and if not having that item makes my experience in any way inferior I will also leave the game altogether.

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trekfangrrrl

My question stands. Whether it comes from a lock box or is just some rare drop in game, how does that change the final outcome? Either way someone is selling some rare drop item to someone else for in game currency.

miol
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miol

It’s like buying a brand new diamond ring:

Even if you bought it from your favorite jeweller next door, you are still part of the system supporting the overexploitaition of African miners! ;P

You’re the one at the end of that economic cycle, the end-consumer, if you will!
Making the whole complex actually sustainable!

wpDiscuz