Belgium seeks to ban lockboxes as gambling, plus Hawaii and France weigh in

Capping off the Great Star Wars Battlefront II Fiasco of November, Belgium’s Gambling Commission and the Dutch Gaming Authority both began investigating lootboxes/lockboxes to determine whether they constitute gambling and necessitate appropriate regulation. Now, the former has issued its ruling, and unlike the gaming-industry bodies ESRB and PEGI, it didn’t add to the BS smokescreen.

Indeed, the Belgian Kanspel Committee has indeed ruled that the practice is a serious problem. “The mixing of money and addiction is gambling,” it declares. Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Greens told VTM that he aims to have gambling mechanics stricken from games entirely, banned outright, throughout Europe. “But that takes time.”

The US state of Hawaii has joined in the fray too, as state representatives have lambasted EA’s “predatory behavior,” calling the game a “Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money.” Is it just one state? Maybe not.

“While we are stepping up to act in Hawaii, we have also been in discussions with our counterparts in a number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue. Change is difficult at the federal level, but states can and are taking action,” Hawaii’s Chris Lee posted to Reddit. “These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.”

MOP commenter Miol further points out that French Senator Jérôme Durain tweeted out his missive to ARJEL (France’s Regulatory Administration for Online Games, which regulates online gambling in the country) and says he is further communicating with various gaming commissions, including the videogame consumer body and e-sports associations in the region.

Maybe EA should shy away from these types of business models come its next Star Wars game, yeah?

Source: VTMReddit, PC Gamer, Kotaku, Twitter. Thanks to Sray, Amma, Miol, Sally, Cheese, Fabio, Jorge, Darthbawl, and Sorenthaz for filling up our inbox about this overnight! Much appreciated! Happy Thanksgiving!
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142 Comments on "Belgium seeks to ban lockboxes as gambling, plus Hawaii and France weigh in"

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Wesley Herremans

It’s Koen Geens and not Greens. but hey details :-)

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George

It seems that EA ruined to toy for everyone else… I’m so glad of it :D

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Wonder who the EA Vice President for taking one for the team is this year.

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Teala Te'Jir

Lockboxes are gambling.

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Mick the Barbarian

Great news. Lockboxes normalise gambling. They train the next generation of problem gamblers who lack the wisdom and understanding. They insidiously replace grind with cash for a random result. They are a blight on gaming.

I’m almost glad EA pushed the envelope as it precipitated the discussion beyond the gaming community.

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Armsbend

And the fact they chose Star Wars to do it in. Any other IP and you might not have a case for it being directly marketed to children. You couldn’t say COD was for kids for example. It might be – but it isn’t clear cut like a franchise everyone started as a kid on.

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Sally Bowls

Water Cooler: What does whale mean for MMOs?

If the average customer spends $0.10 a year and you spend $5, then you are a whale for that game. I know there are some $20k mobile players and star citizen customers. But I don’t think that spending $15 a year when everyone is spending $5 is that pernicious. Nor would I call the $15/year a whale even though (s)he is for that game.

I get there are a few people who buy a $40 SWTOR crate every month. A subset of that might buy two. But is a significant percentage of GW2 or SWTOR sales from people spending thousands of dollars? My guess is it is far more revenue from people buying some BL Chests here and there and some mount lottery tickets than whales spending thousands.

Or is it just that some define someone who buys $50 of Black Lion chest a year in a F2P game a whale? Or does GW2 make a significant amount of money from the spenders of thouands? I just see whales as more of a mobile/FB issue than MMOs outside of SC & EVE.

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Sally Bowls

Poll and water cooler suggestion (free advice is fairly priced):

When you think that the last 2017 style lockbox will be sold in any of GW2, SWTOR, SWBFx or OverWatch?

N.B.: this is not could; not should; but will.

This could be because it is still legal but repugnant enough to consumers that companies stop, or EU, or US or China could make it illegal. Or, TBH, they find something more profitable/evil?

I could see a snowball effect and they are gone by summer (I bet China can move much faster than US or EU to start the ball rolling.) I could see lots of delays, studies, commissions, and circumvention/workaround could have essentially the same thing still available a decade from now. IDK, I guess my over/under would be four years.

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Armsbend

In my opinion China is interested in becoming the new de facto international moral authority. So I agree that they may move quicker than the others.

I personally do not think they are going to go away. I believe EA, Activision will hire lobbyists to protect their profits. Gamers being gamers it will go completely unopposed. Gaming gets their lockboxes, government gets their corruption money.

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Golconde

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Sorenthaz

Disney has actually been working on removing all slot machines IIRC that feature the Star Wars and Marvel brands.

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rafael12104

Perfect. LOL!

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Michael18

lol. this press conference is pure gold.

“This game is a Star-Wars-themed online casino. … It’s a trap.”

Also “The Gamer” at the end is terrific.

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Sally Bowls

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, politician or European but thankfully knowledge is not a requirement to have an internet opinion.

On one hand, it does feel like we may have hit a tipping point; that something will be done.

On the other hand, look at reselling games. In July of 2012, the European Court of Justice ruled that reselling software was a fundamental right of Europeans. This was not some Belguim agency; this was the highest court, no place to appeal and covered all of Europe. Yet over five years later, I still do not believe you can resell your Steam game in Europe. If something this clear this has taken over five years, how long will it take to get lockboxes settled?

IMO, nothing is certain but my best guess is that lockboxes will be gone or fundamentally different at some point. IMO, the more open question is whether I, you and your favorite MMO will still be around when it happens.

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rafael12104

Heh. You might be right, but mere discussion of it, is already having an effect. And we don’t really need the EU to take action. Just the threat of government of intervention might be enough to force EA and others to pull them back.

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Sally Bowls

It absolutely might be. OTOH, five years hasn’t gotten Steam to change so perhaps not.

Certainly, the next time a company decides to spend $100M to develop a new game, it seems wise to not design it assuming current lockbox monetization. So next decade it will have an impact regardless.

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Schmidt.Capela

If the courts in Europe are based on the same principles as those here, they can’t do anything to enforce that ruling over Steam unless someone sues Steam for the right to resell his or her games. Steam was not a party in the judgement where it was decided software could be resold, and the judiciary branch can’t advance any causes by itself, it needs someone to sue first.

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Sally Bowls

IDK but a google of “steam Europe resell lawsuit” shows 429,000 entries and mentions French and German lawsuits on the front page. I have no idea what all this means but I tend to think people are usually not too reticent to sue.

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Brother Maynard

Exactly this.

It can mean that Valve processes re-sale requests normally, it’s just not publicly visible – why would it if all goes as it should? Perhaps it simply can’t be done through the Steam client and has to be handled with the customer service…

In case Valve refuses such requests, it means none of the affected players has filed a formal complaint. If they did, then based on the ruling it would be a very straightforward matter.

The ruling is there and now the national authorities can make use of it if / when they receive a complaint against Steam.

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kgptzac

Are they also gonna make laws banning Magic cards booster packs and pretty much the majority of games on mobile platforms. I doubt anything concrete will come out before lockboxes being replaced by some other scheme.

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Ukrutor

Booster packs always contain cards, though. If booster packs worked just like lockboxes, they would contain mostly stale bread, pocket lint, used rubbers and dead cats – with a chance on actually getting a card or two.

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shear

:D

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Veldan

Having read the linked statement, it looks like Belgium is not going to do anything on a national level. It’s only (planning on) taking it to the EU and making an attempt to get some sort of European legislation for it. Which is both good and bad. Good because EU wide changes would have serious impact globally, but bad because it will take a long time for anything to actually happen, if it happens at all.

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Brother Maynard

It’s only (planning on) taking it to the EU and making an attempt to get some sort of European legislation for it.

Not exactly. Gambling rules are strictly a member states’ prerogative. The EU only ensures that those rules comply with the basic legal framework of the EU. It is extremely unlikely that new gambling legislation will be introduced at the EU level. This would have to be requested by the member states themselves (basically saying ‘we can’t effectively handle it on our own, we want the EU to take this over’) and then adopted by the majority of all EU member states. And as gambling is traditionally a vice / morality matter, which is always tricky and its perception and acceptance vary from one country to the next, the likelihood of this happening in the foreseeable future is virtually zero.

What will happen, though, is that Belgium will add gambleboxes and specifically SWBF2 and others (Overwatch) to the agenda of the expert group on gambling services. This is where all national gambling regulators of EU member states meet and co-ordinate their actions. It is steered at the EU level, but the EU acts here merely as an enabler, managing the process but not having any decision-making or enforcement powers.

The group meets every three months or so, so we can probably expect the December or March agenda to contain online games in some form.

The outcome, however, is up to each member state – whether they want to follow a common line or whether they prefer to opt out is entirely their choice. It may very well be that 27 states will adopt the same or similar rules and effectively ban gambleboxes from online games in the EU, while one country will continue as before… Or all will decide to follow the same approach. We’ll probably see more next year.

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Arktouros

Full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

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Ironweakness

I fear this may be a “be careful what you wish for” situation, or a no win scenario because if legislation does get put in place, depending on its severity, a lot of games that rely on micro transactions and lootboxes for survival will be shut down. Although it may take longer and will not stamp out the practice entirely, it would be far better for the market place to persuade and enforce the change over time. This would give smaller studios the opportunity to try and move their financial dependency elsewhere rather than being asked to quit cold turkey. The EAs and Ubisofts would survive rapid enforcement; the little guys not so much.

This is probably all just political chest puffery but if it does turn into something legitimate, do you really want a bunch of people who don’t play or care about these games making the decisions on how to “fix” the problem?

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Armsbend

I am not only wishing it to happen I have written letters to representatives asking if I can volunteer my time in preparation of any lawsuits.

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Veldan

If every single game with lootboxes is shut down next week, I’d be fine with that. It won’t happen, but such a radical cleanup of the gaming industry would be fantastic.

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A Dad Supreme

The US state of Hawaii has joined in the fray too, as state representatives have lambasted EA’s “predatory behavior,” calling the game a “Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money.” Is it just one state? Maybe not.

Yep, congressmen and senators will tackle this right after the U.S. solves the gun and drug problem.

I personally expect a speedy response to this problem by government regulation.

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Arktouros

People got no idea.

Wait till “Big Game” starts hiring lobbyists against any kind of legislation against them or at least weaken it so they can simply bypass it and get around it. You already see this in other countries where they just gift the gamble boxes with a purchase instead. America isn’t about protecting it’s citizens it’s a business and everyone wants your money.

Also the ESRB wasn’t far off that this kind of mechanic has been used in a wide variety of other sources such as baseball Cards and the like for a very long time. You end up having to dig through that can of worms as collateral damage as well.

If you look at other industries the best we’re going to get is basically information where people who have gamble box mechanics are required to post the odds of getting specific items. At worse they’ll allow it with some restrictions and simply tax it so they get their cut of the pie.

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Mick the Barbarian

America may be a big market, but when it’s banned in the rest of the world, it’s going to hurt their profits. Australia looks like it may take a similar stance, rating all games with lockboxes as R18+. That means no sales to minors.

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Arktouros

In the digital era how do you verify someone’s age? The principle argument being made is for minors/children, who typically don’t have their own credit cards, and instead use purchasing options already enabled in various accounts (IE: play store, or xbox store, etc). Are you going to have a pop up verifying age? I mean do we even need a sarcastic reply to realize how poor that will go?

Even then a warning label isn’t the root issue here. The issue is people like me who have disposable income and have no problems dropping a couple hundred bucks on a game without batting an eyelash. I’m full aware of why companies do what they do but at the end of the day if there’s somewhat I want and something I can afford I’m going to get it. The struggle is that game developers are catering to more my kind of gamer than the average gamer who is unwilling (and if we’re being perfectly honest, unable in most cases) and that pisses them off.

All these warnings and labels and nonsense will accomplish as much as the ESRB game ratings do to ward off violent games to children (IE: Nothing).

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Baseball cards? Oh, come on now. You weren’t buying cards. You were buying bubble gum. The cards were just a free incentive to buy the gum.

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Arktouros

I know I sure as heck didn’t get any Bubble gum in those Magic The Gathering card packs!

But yes, exactly my point. You didn’t buy gamble boxes, you bought virtual currency. Then you bought gamble boxes with virtual currency that has no regulations on it.

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zoward

More likely they’ll tackle this to look like they’re visibly doing something, rather than get bogged down in the quagmires of gun control and the “drug war”.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Gambling commissions are not at their root about morality, they are about containing organized crime.

Most video game regulations in the past have taken the form of censorship. And most censorship derives from moral outrage at sexual depictions and violence. But gambling has long been recognized as a corrupting influence and one that needs to be regulated at a high level.

And while, as an American, I have go full on cynic whenever I hear God brought in as an excuse to do anything considering what passes for godliness at the moment, the truth is that gambling inevitably leads to corruption.

Organized crime at the moment isn’t tied to any publishers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t following the scent of money and considering how to get in on the action. In fact, we don’t know who EA is in debt to. We don’t know who it has borrowed money from, what shell companies fronting organized crime may be laundering money through investments in EA or any other game publisher. We don’t know what financial entanglements board members or shareholders have that are driving their decisions.

This is the real core of concern for these government entities.

miol
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miol

In case you missed this well researched video about the myth, that games are too expensive to make without lockboxes, or without driving up prices, posted by Sorenthaz yesterday:

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Line

They just need a scapegoat as usual.
Put the blame of him/her as the one that took out lockboxes of the industry (with a generous golden parachute, of course), then back to business, selling Kylo Ren bananas and the next copy/paste DLC infested shooter of the week.

But before all that, let’s not forget about investing a couple millions into the right people that won’t vote against lockboxes.
Don’t forget people, it’s not corruption to give money to someone if they vote like you want! You just have to be sure to give less if they don’t vote as expected! Or not, because it doesn’t fucking matter anyway.

Just let EA write the law banning lockboxes* (*definition may differ from reality) and cut the charade short.

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roo woods

I doubt it will be long before the government here in the UK follows suit . But I wonder how it will work in practice ?

Maybe there will be lockboxes only on the North American servers and the European countries will be free of them .

If that happens I expect to see a lot more Americans on the EU servers .

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Toy Clown

This is what happens when developers listen to a playerbase consisting of demanding 16-20 yr olds who still live at home, or in college dorms, who don’t want to pay out-of-pocket the 15$ a month MMOs used to cost. I’ve been playing MMOs since UO came out, and watching the industry downslide in these areas can easily be attributed to the mindset of people not wanting to pay for 24/7 entertainment. It’s always boggled my mind the arguments that arose around this.

MMOs began hiring (or ripped off the ideas of other MMOs) of psychologists who’ve figured out how to con players out of their money exacting 3-10 times more than the cost of a sub, by tricking them emotionally into gambling. It was bad enough when “free” MMOs were doing it, but now sub MMOs are jumping on the bandwagon. I hate that this “model” is working. It says a whole lot about gamers in general. I hope a turn-around can be achieved in the exorbitant pricing models that equate to extortion and gambling.

Gamers, collectively, have no idea how much power we have over this, but instead are easily duped into believing we “need” these things, which is contrived out of a false competitive nature to be on top of all other gamers.

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Arktouros

Developers didn’t listen to a player base. We cancelled the subscriptions, they got the message that model wasn’t going to work. It’s simply an action, reaction style scenario. Fundamentally speaking we’re the ones to blame.

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Jacobin GW

The sub died because its much easier to get one whale to pay $1000 then to get a hundred people to pay $10. It also capitalizes on the launch rush where people will pay big money to skip ahead and be one of the cool kids.

Of course this causes the game to implode in a few months when the plebs get tried and leave for whatever the next game is that uses the same system. This is why blatant P2W Asian games come out every month.

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Line

Lockboxes are faaaar from being new. Hell, they’re not even the MMO type nowadays, it’s an extension of mobile gaming.

They have nothing to do with the racket of subscriptions, just with easy ways to make money.

In fact, they are two sides of the same coin: they don’t sell you a product, but a service. And they’ll do everything they can to keep you in their scheme, like removing everything you’ve ever bought if you don’t pay protection money every month.
Why fight competition and making things better if you can just hit and run their wallets? Even better to cause addiction, be it with gambling or very literal fees.

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Jack Pipsam

What’s living at home or in dorms got to do with anything?

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Toy Clown

A large portion of this problem has come from a demographic of players whose parents wouldn’t pay for subs, traceable to credit cards charges. It was easy to get parents to pay for internet and computers because it’s needed for education, or easy to hit free wifi areas for internet access for gaming, or college dorms for gaming, while not the best in some cases, could still be used. But not so paying for subs.

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Sally Bowls

Let’s not be too age-ist here. In ancient times I was a co-owner of a software store. I remember a 30/40-something customer wanting a receipt dated next month because his wife said he could not spend any more on computer games this month.

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Jack Pipsam

Traditional MMOs haven’t been popular with teenagers or young adults for a long time now and a lot of that you know also has to do with the design, kill x quests, grind ect. Most likely Warcraft is the main one played and that ironically is the sub-model game.

If people cannot afford subs or are unable to gain access to them, blaming them seems like quite the scapegoat. Most traditional MMO players are like 30+ or it seems more and more now like 40+ even, you know folks more likely to have a steady income… more likely to spend the extra cash on these micro-transactions.
Think back to Farmville or Candy Crush, it was stereotypical older folk who didn’t normally play games, but dropped hard cash still on these titles.

If someone is unable to pay the price of entry or a sub, then I am not seeing how they’re meant to be the same people to blame for this. Feels like barking up the wrong tree to me to attack those who cannot pay or are more likely to be manipulated by systems.

Also on the whole, I think it’s a good thing that gaming is more accessible with free options. Many traditional MMOs are better off with the sub-model it seems, but attacking those who aren’t able to otherwise get in seems a bit contradictory to me. What are they supposed to do or do you rather that gaming be some like of elite thing?

I also take issue with the implication that living at home or in dorm is somehow tied. What an odd insult, “haha you’re having a full time education and are living close to your place of study, lol what a loser, I bet you don’t even pay $15 for SWTOR”.

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kgptzac

Eh, the microtransaction system is exactly taking advantage of 1) people who can’t/won’t pay for playing games and 2) whales who’d spend shit tons on the said games. It’s misguided to say people who won’t pay because they are poor, and even less logical to assume where they live… but yeah, if there’s any blame need to hand out like candy, then the above two groups will get them.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I believe the idea is that they have a slim budget and don’t want to pay “full price” for their games or gaming, such as paying $100 for a game or buying a subscription.

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Jack Pipsam

But if the logic is someone doesn’t (or cannot) pay the full price of entry, I am not seeing how that same person is meant to be the one spending all this intense amount money on lootboxes and micro-transactions.

In the case of MMOs one of the biggest problems is the lack of new players, the ‘problem’ demographic is barely a demographic for MMOs. Most young adults playing MMOs are playing Warcraft still, you know, the game which has both a sub AND extra fees on top.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Good point. But I think the intention of the free player is that they will get to play the game and never pay a dime in MTX. Meanwhile, everyone else will, essentially supporting those who play entirely free. I know quite a few people who play LOTRO at a high level and have never paid anything for the game. They’ve done it all through grinding tokens and have unlocked everything.

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Jack Pipsam

That has been the free model, the few pay for the many. Those who play for free, either because they’re unable too or shouldn’t are fulling up the lobbies or parties for those who are able too, more willing (or sadly tricked) into paying, it’s a bit of a yin-yang thing.

Free to play games are a reaction for lost revenue, not the cause.
If Turbine had thought they’d get more money with sub-only, they’d never have switched would they? If someone cannot pay, they’d never have subbed to start with, but if they’re playing for free, they might keep those who can pay, paying and who knows, that person who can’t pay today, might be able too someday.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I believe you are correct. That is how it began. That doesn’t mean that a very vocal group (as described by the OP) hasn’t grown up in support of that model.

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Jack Pipsam

People like the model across the board. People hate the model across the board.
I am 22, I was a teen when things were switching from sub to free. I saw that suddenly friends who’d never be able too play any MMO outside of Runescape could suddenly play DDO or the like.
Those pesky teens playing free games, they’re now getting jobs. Attacking your future customers is as bad a model as attacking your current ones.

I had many friend who’d only ever pirate things growing up because they weren’t able to buy things, but now I see their own little blu-ray collections. Give things time to grow.
Nobody asked for lootcrates, people liked free and that worked for basic things to start with or the kind of unlimited trial idea, but all this extra gamble stuff is an act of greed, not survival.

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miol

;P

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rafael12104

I particularly like the golden eggs. LOL.

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Zora

Words are cheap and if a politician babbling about something equated at something about to be done, humanity would be exploring nearby galaxies by now /cough

Any state involvement with gambling is generally about “how large a slice you of the pie you are giving to me” than worrying about the children and on the european side specifically I feel it’s just another weekly flavour of the ongoing hostility toward US-based companies that made the news for months on this side of the pond… precious little to do with any genuine concern about anything.

Wether some good can come out of it, we”ll wait and see… talk is cheap :P

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Brother Maynard

ongoing hostility toward US-based companies that made the news for months on this side of the pond

It’s simply a case of some US companies’ total ignorance, inability or unwillingness to comply with local laws. This arrogant approach is especially prevalent among (but not limited to) Silicon Valley companies. It has nothing to do with hostility, it’s simply making them play by the rules.

It’s actually often amusing to watch them make the old Honeywell / GE mistakes again and again and then acting surprised and hurt when they’re facing the consequences. Even AT&T has done its homework over here with their current merger procedure (which now seems to have been pointless anyway, after the US decision to block the merger) – and that’s saying something.

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Jack Pipsam

I am angry and frustrated with publishers that got gaming to this point. So blinded by greed, the quick buck that they seemingly are unaware or uninterested that they could be destroying their own business in the long-run if sweeping laws throw the baby out with the bathwater. The further and further pushing of boundaries into these realms of such awful systems like micro-transactions, loot-boxes and this semi-gambling was never going to end well.
The backlash from gamers never worked, publishers like EA, Activision Blizzard, Take-Two and the like all have put themselves in this position despite many chances to back down, I have no real sympathy for any CEO who sailed the gold ship into the cliff-side. Publishers without doubt deserve all the scrutiny and shame put upon them. Anger and Frustration.

But I am also concerned about the players who have so willingly decided that almost begging governments and legislators who for years have been at odds with the freedom of gamers to come in and intervene. To bow on one knee, offering up the silver platter with a tiny little cue-card on it saying in fancy cursive writing “Think of the children, please help us and create laws to stop this madness!”, let’s be honest here, most of the people using this argument (not all naturally, but a lot) aren’t interested in that, they’ll go along with any argument which is easiest to punish publishers like EA.

While these publishers deserve to squirm uncomfortably under scrutiny, to set fire to them also could burn everything else, from smaller publishers to indies, anything and everything is now up in the air once the floodgates are open. The fantasy of watching EA and lootboxes crumble I fear has made some forget how easily and willing many lawmakers are to censor games content beyond with violence and other mature themes.

Careful what you wish for. Give an inch, take a mile. Ect ect ect ect.
Think i’m crazy? So be it, it’s out of my control, all I can do is watch from the side and hope this fire won’t burn out of control. Publishers are still the fault of all of this, I am not defending them, but for every action, a reaction. Publishers will get burned by this and that’s good, but I hope gamers won’t get burned too much in the long-run for dealing with the devil. Roll the dice, maybe you’ll be lucky.

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rafael12104

I don’t really disagree with you Jack. But look at what had to happen to pull EA back just a little bit.

And yes we may be using a hammer to clean a plate. But I’m starting to believe it may be the only way to get something to change. I hope we don’t have to use the hammer, but…

One last bit that keeps wrankeling around my brain. I was talking to a good friend and long time MMO/gamer yesterday about this. And his take was, “well, if AAAs can’t make ends meet, they will stop making great games and then where would we be? You have to understand and take it as a cost for playing the games that we want.” WTF? Right?

If EA can’t make ends meet without predatory practices, then they should just fold. And if AAAs can’t regulate this themselves, which the have the capability to do as we speak, then bring out the hammer!

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Jack Pipsam

If games were truly too expensive to make, then the business isn’t working. If the problem is that everything now has to be super-detailed 4K with all the magic water physics in the world running on top-end cloud based servers, then maybe we just need to expect less.

You can still get cheaper, but good games like the Sherlock Holmes ones, they’re made on a modest budget and don’t need to sell billions.Even stuff like Dark Souls from what I gather isn’t an unbearably expensive game to make.
But when you get stuff like Planetside 2, which is cool, but unyielding, then maybe focusing on the cheaper H1Z1 does make more sense.

Minecraft, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Slenderman, Undertale ect proved you don’t need to be the flashiest game in town to win.

I am sure many AAA could be made for cheaper if the management was tighter, staff was smaller and scope was pulled back.
Yes it’s very cool when you have stuff like massive open world games with a billion strains of grass each with its own texture, but I reckon that there’s a lot of fat which could still be cut to bring down costs.

I won’t deny games are expensive, but I don’t buy that without these systems that suddenly EA will close up shop.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

And then there’s Path of Exile. And World of Warcraft, to be honest. Both games have found ways to make money without predatory lockboxes. Yes, PoE has them, but they also publish what is in them and at what percentages, exactly as the highly-regulated casinos do on their slots.

WoW, of course, sells flashy mounts and cute-as-bug’s-ears pets in an online store. And subscription tokens. So, they have found ways to hit the high dollar items without lockboxes. And before you say Overwatch or Heathstone, note that I said World of Warcraft, not Blizzard.

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rafael12104

Oh, btw. I love the self professed “gamer” in the video above. LOL! Such a stereotypical gaming dude. Come on, are you sure that guy isn’t an actor?

The loud, I don’t go out much shirt, with the I just woke up hair? Lol!

The way they treated him, like he had suffered some type of permanent affliction.

Wow… I feel a little insulted to be honest. LOL

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Tanek

Depending on how far this goes, we do have to be prepared for the result.

I do not like buying random items with real money. Never have, probably never will. If I buy something, I want to know what it is I am getting, especially since I am probably making the purchase to get a particular item.

That said, there are cases that are worse than others. For Battlefront II, my understanding is that the boxes were tied to progression in the game. When tied to the randomness factor, that should be an obvious no-no. Would there have been as much of an uproar if the boxes had been cosmetic-only? Would EA have still made (even temporary) changes at launch? I’m not sure.

If this goes through and all “gamble boxes” are out, I don’t think the games will just throw in the towel and say ok, everyone gets the items for free now! Whee! No, they will still sell just as many things and the prices will go up to compensate for the “loss”. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad result (though it, too, can go too far) since chances are it will save money for the consumers as a whole, but I think individually people are going to flip out all over again when it happens.

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rafael12104

LOL! So, we knew about Hawaii yesterday as it was brought up in the other thread, but the French and Belgian bits are new and should be of much more concern to EA at this point.

As I said yesterday. What is going on in Hawaii scares me a little. Yeah, because they are bringing religion into it (just watch the vid). Now, I’m fine with religion in general, but when politics and religion mix into a crusade (see what I did there) for action, there are unintended consequences.

But that being said, you bet your ass EA is watching all of this begin to swirl around them and their legal teams are siloed and ready. Fear, yes fear, is what they feel. Don’t think so? The roll back on Need for Speed would never have happened if it wasn’t for the publicity BF2 brought to bear.

And you know who is face palming in the corner? Activision. LOL Oh yes. Because if CoD WWII is any indication, their version of lootbox bingo was just about to land in their games.

Now, there is a long way to go, and this may come to nothing after the holidays, right? But, the idea that lootboxes are predatory shit is starting to float to the right places.

And I’m with Armsbend on this. Fuck it. Let’s tear it all down. All of it. We can deal with the consequences. What we can’t deal with is EA’s and other gaming conglomerates greed surpassing any decency.

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Sterling

Chalk up another in the “BURN IT ALL DOWN” category. This shite is so pervasive, it’s got to be pulled out by the roots.

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rafael12104

Not sure if this is Jim Sterling or not. You don’t have to say either way.

But if it is, Thanks Brother! We are in this fight.

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rafael12104

It’s the only way to be sure.

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Xshinobi

If this has a trickle down effect, Publishers will just go back to selling normal micro transactions like exp boosters and the like. Then if micro transactions come under fire then they will just increase the price of the boxed product. In end the consumer will always lose.

I’m also very concerned about the Government passing out regulations on gaming, it is a very slippery slope.

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Veldan

Lose? I’d consider both those steps a win.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

It’s a slippery slope, but it comes with the territory. Games need to be monetized, especially with the free to play model being the standard in mobile games, which (sadly) is what the current generation of kids probably knows best.

Don’t be afraid of change though. We might get something better. We’re seeing the rise of indies. As some of these big companies falter, the little guys get a chance to wiggle in. Looking over the past few years, I feel like I’ve gotten better gaming experiences from indies and smaller companies than big ones (except Nintendo, who may not be perfect, but at least they do interesting/weird stuff on a larger scale).

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xanadox

Games need to be monetized ,but you don’t need gambling to monetize your game.

They use it as it will give them more money, using things that society keeps from children (and some grown-up), as it can become a great problem.

It’s sad to say, but I think China has better laws than us in this aspect.

antheriel
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antheriel

Andrew, I think your point is very good, that that the F2P model is what people are used to nowadays. It will make it very hard to retreat to a model where games cost $60-80 flat-out, with no IAP or microtransactions.

Gaming has changed so much. It’s so common now to see people leaving bad reviews on app stores or Steam because a game cost money. That feels strange to me every time.

The reviews of Lineage II Revolution are almost universally praising the fact that the game mainly plays itself, relegating the user to a kind of microtransaction administrator role. They _praise_ this, as if actually playing the game is distasteful. This is what people seem to want now, in everything from match-three games to hardcore RPGs: F2P idle clickers with microtransaction mini-games.

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Schmidt.Capela

If only Nintendo wasn’t tied to their own hardware…

I love Nintendo games, but I flat out refuse to purchase any console I can’t hack, even if that means I don’t get to play games I really want to, like every Switch game made by Nintendo.

(Every other Nintendo console has been hacked, so I got almost all of them, and plenty of first-party Nintendo games for each.)

Edit: Nintendo did one quite interesting experience with a F2P game. It had microtransactions, but if you spent in it more than a certain threshold, it would unlock everything. So you could pay for it as if it was a F2P game with microtransactions, or as if it was a B2P game without microtransactions, and even transition from F2P to B2P.

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shear

I’d pay 80 easy mode if that meant no pay to win microtransactions.
Publishers can also stop marketing so aggressively to save money.

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Hirku

Heh, he said, “It’s a trap!”

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Zen Dadaist

I’ll be watching this certainly. I wonder how far this can go…

I’ll be in it for the long haul. I fucking hate real money gambling crates and the like in video games and hope they go the fuck away.

*settles in with popcorn*

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

*Edited the wrong message, but tl;dr of the old one:

For Americans:

https://whoismyrepresentative.com/

You can also google “who is my assembly member” for state tools to find someone more easy for you to vote in and out of office ;P

Belgium, France, and Hawaii’s recent pushes against lockboxes are giving us gamers a chance to get the non-gaming world to help us reclaim our hobby. Email/snail mail your favorite article(s) on the topic to get their attention OR just call and mention the situation to make them research it themselves. Calling is taken more seriously, but since this issue isn’t probably as known to them, text messages with sources may be of some use.

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Yoshi Senpai

I’d rather people be doing that same course of action but over net neutrality. Who cares if we get rid of lock boxes in games when we might soon be having micro transactions for internet.

Remember cable TV people and how you bought packages for channels? That is what is going to happen to the internet soon unless it is known how fucking terrible that idea is.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

The net neutrality issue is much easier to tackle IMO since it’s more known. Call, don’t email/snail mail this one. For reference: https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/29/15100620/congress-fcc-isp-web-browsing-privacy-fire-sale (just because your rep’s name isn’t there, doesn’t mean you’re “safe,” especially if you just got a new rep this season)

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Utakata

I am all for better monetization…but to “make games great again”? I am not aware they went bad in the first place. Not to mention, the last person who popularized that “great again” phrase is deliberately turning his jurisdiction into an ignorant, bigoted troll hole. So what do you mean by “great again”? o.O

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Don’t mind the phrase, but to address my position on the state of gaming, I’ve felt like we’ve seen our genre struggling more because lockboxes are lazy content that’s replacing, well, our games. Look no further than Trion and ArcheAge. I was a huuuge Trion fan early on, and AA was a game I was SUPER excited for (played it in 3 languages during beta). While there’s still some good content, I just can’t bring myself to support either one when I feel like the game(s) promote lockbox rewards more than earned content.

Pokemon GO does this with its eggs/incubator events, Overwatch with its seasonal events, Hearthstone shifting away from adventure sets to whole new expansions… in terms of multiplayer games, I can’t escape this unless I hit a non-mobile Nintendo title. As much as I hate raiding the same content week after week, at least it was a group activity we couldn’t bypass with our wallets.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

You are so right, Andrew. Why bother making a campaign to acquire a hero when you can just put it in a lockbox or MT with a high grind threshold? Games are at the point where the game is just a shell for the MTX. And that is the really, really bad thing about them.

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Utakata

Thank you for clarifying that. I figured that’s what you mean…’cept the “great again” was a bit Trump triggering for me. My bad. And my apologies for letting it cloud my inquiry, but I had to know. :(

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Darthbawl

Even cats are eating some popcorn over this one! :P

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Schmidt.Capela

And now a Star Wars game is being explicitly called a “Star-Wars themed casino for kids” by legislators and judges in both the US and Europe, and used as the main example why regulating or banning this kind of practice is needed. I don’t think Disney is going to be happy…

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Loopy

I am wondering how this will impact (if at all) things like booster packs for games like MTG. They pretty much serve the same purpose – randomized chance at getting a prized card. But i haven’t seen much uprising over that practice over the years..

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Dušan Frolkovič

Not just the boosters, if they start going after these things, how long till the local gaming store will need a gambling license to host tournaments. Lets just hope they fix the real issues, and not go overboard as usual.

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Schmidt.Capela

Tournaments shouldn’t be an issue, at least as long as skill is more important than random chance in determining who gets which reward.

Besides, being quite frank, I wouldn’t shed a tear if booster packs, and other kinds of mystery packs aimed at kids, were outright banned. Besides my dislike for them as a concept, it’s in essence conditioning kids into accepting as normal paying for a purely random chance at what they want, which in essence is gambling. Booster packs are no less evil than lockboxes per see, we are just more used to them due to how long they have been around.

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Dušan Frolkovič

Boosters can gladly go to the naughty corner. The only thing i used them for in the last 10 years were limited events anyway, secondary market for the rest.
And LCGs otherwise.

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shear

That’s competition, not gambling.

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Dušan Frolkovič

Thats what poker said as well.

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shear

If they legislate I’d imagine the language would be something along the lines of “game of chance”. They can’t really stop microtransactions but they can remove the element of chance out of them.

solrize
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solrize

I want nothing more than to see these practices outlawed or at least regulated to some extent. It’s ridiculous how much these publishers can get away with. They should have to follow the same regulations/restrictions as online gambling.

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shear

Thank you EA, thank you that you are so greedy that the world finally took notice of this.

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hardy83

I wouldn’t be surprised if governments have been talking about this for a while, but like most things government, it takes time to process information and make a competent plan to deal with it.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

I just said the same thing! I won’t be playing BF2, but I’m really happy EA continued being their scummy selves so the non-gaming world can see the BS we’re putting up with.

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shear

*high fives*

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hugmonster

After years and years of trying to convince everyone that games can be for adults too and they should be considered a legitimate art form, a large part of the gaming community is now rallying behind “Will someone please think of the children” and other similar emotional appeals.
RNG Lootboxes suck and they should go away but I can’t help but worry a bit about how this will end and what the ramifications will be in the future.

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Michael18

Very good point and I agree to a degree. But overall I think lockboxes and similar monetization schemes are the greater threat to games, atm, than what non-gamers think about its target audience.

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David Goodman

I hadn’t thought about it like this, but you’re right – all of this “for the children” talk does make me a bit nervous. Gambling is gambling no matter who it targets; It should be regulated as such because of what it IS. Opening the door to regulation “for the children”… I dunno.

Probably nothing.

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Jack Pipsam

I totally agree. I think lootboxes, crates and micro-transactions in full priced games are all total trash and deserve to die in a fire. Putting progression (and really even anything, including cosmetics) behind these manipulated systems are awful.

But, jumping up and down in glee over what is now seemingly inevitable federal intervention is quite the 180 from the years upon years people have to had to fight governments to not censor games. This will come back in some form or another I just know it.

Giving an inch, taking a mile. Just as people gave Blizzard a pass with lootboxes in games like Overwatch led to the mile which is crap like Battlefront 2. If people are a bit too blinded by the admittedly overwhelming temptation which is the prospect of dumping lootboxes via legislation, then I have no doubts it will open up cracks in the dam wall.

Using the “think of the children” argument does make some logic sense I admit for this situation and I know it’s quite tempting as it’s possibly the most lowest common denominator tactic to use for any situation, but the usage of it I feel will come back. In a sense it’s handing over a silver platter to legislators to say “yeah video games are really only for children” of which the moral argument can very quickly be swung right back around to violence, sex, online interaction and welcome back to 1995.

People might think i’m being over-dramatic, but all you need to do is look at history. As pointed out before, careful what you wish for when it comes to legislation.

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deekay_plus

the thing with this is is these lockboxesa nd other video game entangled gambling are legit aimed at exploiting children.

it’s not like the jackthompson/sarkeesian rhetoric of training (male) children to murder indiscriminately irl and engage in violence against women that has very little basis in the reality of our games no matter the cherry picked plaigirized misrepresented footage may seem to show.

teh companies and youtubers and influencers and personalities outright attempt to gain youth audiences conciously, then sell them gambling in various ways, some of which is already being actioned (tho unfortunately rather lightly) by regulators. as well as social media influencers failing to disclose the bare minimum of advertising in their social media/youtube/streams advertisements.

although so far these actions by regulators have amounted to a slap on the wrist at best, there’s still a reckoning coming as these various entities push harder and double down on shitty behaviours and sales practices like these.

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BalsBigBrother

Yeah I have mostly been quiet about my feelings on this because I have this odd “be careful what you wish for” thing whispering to me in the back of my brain for some reason.

I wonder if at some point in the near future we are going to be seeing articles complaining about $120 – 150 base games and people wishing we still had lockboxes

antheriel
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antheriel

Fair, but I think we need to have that conversation. When I first played EQII in 2005, it cost $14.99 a month to subscribe, if I recall correctly. 12 years later, that’s still the price. My handy-dandy inflation calculator tells me we should be closer to $20 per month for games of that type, but god help the publisher who tries to charge that. Similarly, games that cost $50 all-in in 1990 should be about $95 today, inflation-adjusted. I realize it’s more complicated than just scaling by inflation, but I do think that we have become accustomed to prices that are probably too low.

I would balk at $100 for a game, but you know what? If it was a really good game and there weren’t going to be ANY IAPs or microtransactions, if I got ALL the bells and whistles for $100, I’d pay it.

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BalsBigBrother

Funny you should mention sub fees, I sent a question into the podcast about those too yesterday

miol
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miol

They already cost almost that much, if you want to have a full game and not only the stripped out or “beta” version for $60, even without adding the 3rd cycle of dipping by lockboxes, with their season passes, gold and silver versions,… easing you into those already established higher prices!

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BalsBigBrother

Yeah sorry if I wasn’t clear by base game I meant no season pass no deluxe edition goodies or anything you just get access to the game. With all that I am thinking $200 + but with no other cost as a consumer unless further dlc is released beyond the season pass.

Games cost money and that money is going to come from us consumers somehow or other. My worry is that it will go as I state above, time will tell in any case.

miol
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miol

They only cost more because publishers are releasing less games to mitigate risks, and wanting to rely more on steady revenues from games with longer shelf lives!

Without lockboxes, there is less opportunity to stretch out content and they are therefore cheaper to develop! And more time to make more games on top of that!

As proven by yesterday’s shared video of Sorenthaz:

Analyst blames EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 fiasco on the press, Reddit, and video game purists

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BalsBigBrother

http://www.pcgamer.com/the-case-for-and-against-loot-boxes-according-to-developers/

Read the the section “Do big budget games need loot boxes to stay profitable? ”

There are other views on that particular subject. I expect the truth to be somewhere in the middle and not universal for all cases /shrugs In any case I have put more time into this than I intended so I will just go back to time will tell and leave it at that.

Have a nice day and take care o/

miol
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Skoryy

My wonder is when the moral scolds start up with ‘If gambling is bad for kids, then how about all that sex and violence?’

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rafael12104

I’m afraid of this, yeah. But, I’m also arriving at the idea that we need to get rid of lootboxes all together in their current form. So, I’ll take the risk, because I can defend games from both.

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hugmonster

I fear the day when Jack Thompson crawls out of whatever hole he’s been hiding in for the past 10 years or so and starts his Anti-Gaming crusade again…

styopa
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styopa

Congratulations you greedy morons.
It’s how the system is supposed to work: generally businesses can make money how they like until their greed becomes too egregious, and then lawmakers step in, sensing an easy way to curry favor from voters.
Now you have government attention, hope you’ve factored that in to your profit calculations.

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Kevin Smith

Well got the popcorn ready, time to see where this leads to. Is it going to keep going and actually make a difference or is it just going to be the new bandwagon everyone jumps on till the new shiny comes along.

obsessite
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obsessite

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/201300

UK members of the public, support this to bring this up in Parliament.

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Amorey

Done !

Thanks for sharing :)

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Kawinn Mens

Belgium banning loot boxes outright is false information. I’m Belgium and that is not what he said at all.

The minister said it is gambling if you don’t know what is in the loot boxes.
So games will have to clarify their drop rates like China otherwise their game will get banned.

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Veldan

Why would it suddenly not be gambling if you know the drop rates? You know all the chances in casino games too.

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Schmidt.Capela

If I understood it correctly, it isn’t about knowing the odds, but about knowing the exact contents of the lockboxes beforehand. As in, if you don’t have a way to know beforehand whether the exact item you want will be inside the single lockbox you are purchasing, it’s gambling.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

although remember, if the FCC chair has his way, americans will be spending on microtransactions to load all their favourite internet content and sites every month to a degree even worse than EA.

styopa
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styopa

FUD histrionics.

I’m in favor of net neutrality, but I also doubt the sky-is-falling predictions of its opponents.

I think it’s irrefutable that certain firms (ala Netflix and other high bandwidth users) are taking advantage of the commons in ways that aren’t currently financially recovered.

What I suspect, however, is that the moment ISP’s start preferentially routing content, they will find they are now legally culpable for that content, and THAT exposure will be far more expensive than any marginal revenue they might squeeze out of such schemes.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

ISPs in teh US are absolute scum.

despite being heavily subsidized by the tax payer to bring high end broadband internet country wide they refused to do so, while entering into shady agreements with cities to exert likely illegal monopolies that regulators in teh US not having balls anymore to conquer like in the 90s being far worse than the monopolies of yesteryear and far more anticompetitive and anti consumer in every way.

i have no doubt they will go for broke if allowed and it will be far worse than the alleged FUD going around on this file.

i also don’t understand why these people think it’s ok to repeatedly smash their heads on this file when it’s been blocked so many times already in the past few years. it’s like they want to be ruled a public utility or something.

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Dušan Frolkovič

They count on people getting tired of protesting, it probably costs them less to always push it to a vote twenty times, then the one time profit if it does.

styopa
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styopa

I don’t disagree with you.
Although I’d say that the main blame goes to the legislators that handed out open ended monopoly contracts like candy.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

it’s because corporations are people and money is speach under us law. these corporations fund those legislator’s election campaigns to keep them in office so they can’t help but put those coporate lobbyist interests above those of their constituents best interests.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

This. A thousand times. Has corrupted US law like nothing else.

styopa
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styopa

You’re far too charitable to political figures.

Of course they CAN help it, they simply choose not to.

Companies, morally and ethically, are going to try every legal avenue to make money. I simply don’t think you can blame a wolf for being carnivorous.

Our elected officials, otoh, are specifically elected and charged with executing our (not their) best interest.

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Sray

All good news, but as YouTuber YongYea pointed out on his channel last night, that doesn’t mean its time to pat ourselves on the back and say “job well done” but rather it’s time to speak up even more. It’s on the radar for politicians now, so write to your local representative(s) and make your feelings known to them.

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rafael12104

I like Yong. He seems to be right on point most of the time.

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Schmidt.Capela

That is exactly what the Hawaii representative said. This is merely cracking open the door, but if we don’t put our foot forward, it will close again.

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David Goodman

I think we do have something to be thankful to EA for — their abusive, immoral, greedy behavior may have paved the way for some greater good.

Now, not that i’m saying we THANK EA, just that we’re thankful FOR them. And maybe not right now — let’s wait to see how it plays out, but this is going to make companies VERY nervous about putting in these mechanics until THEY know how this all plays out.

They would have to be very cocky or greedy (… okay not that rare) to implement something that they may be forced to rip out later, or shut down entirely if they cannot.

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xanadox

And doing that with a Disney IP,
before some hundred million dollar movie is about to arrive
feels like the perfect storm.

EA you deserve that.

Disney, please ask EA why they haven’t done this shit to FIFA.

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BalsBigBrother

Just knew this would be the first article of the day after TDG when I saw this on the news this morning. In fact I would have bet money on that being the case …. um oh never mind :p

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Wolfyseyes

AH SEE WOT U DID THERE EEEEYYY *repeated elbowing of ribs*

wpDiscuz