Red Dead Redemption publisher president defends lockboxes

Not everyone in the video game industry is shying away from lockboxes or denouncing them outright. Take-Two Interactive President Karl Slatoff took the side of the ESA by saying that he doesn’t consider lockboxes gambling and that the Red Dead Redemption 2 studio will continue using microtransactions going forward.

“The whole gambling regulator thing, we don’t view that sort of thing as gambling. Our view of it is the same as the ESA statement for the most part,” Slatoff said during a recent confererence. “That’s going to play its course, but in terms of the consumer and the noise you hear in the market right now, it’s all about content […] You can’t force the consumer to do anything. You try to do your best to create the best experience you possibly can to drive engagement. And driving engagement creates value in entertainment. That’s just how it’s always been and always will be.”

As the conversation over lockboxes continues to ramp up, a story of one teen who got caught up in online gambling and spent over $10,000 on video game microtransactions is drawing the attention of many — as is this scathing piece at Polygon taking EA’s poor apologies over Star Wars Battlefront 2 to task.

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83 Comments on "Red Dead Redemption publisher president defends lockboxes"

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Mr_Planthead

Considering how many people have lost their jobs/homes/families over being addicted to mmo’s that are designed to suck you in and make you spend as much time as possible in them its amazing that so many ignore that yet are completely against lockboxes.

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thirtymil

That’s actually a very valid point. Which is something I didn’t want to type because my first reaction was ‘no, it’s totally different because… er… ah… erm’.

Okay, so there’s perhaps a slight difference between what we feel compulsed to do (i.e. addiction) and what we just really, really would enjoy doing (‘can’t wait to log in, hop on a gryphon’ as the song about WoW goes), but in essence, yes, it’s a similar risk and people with the same personality traits are likely to be vulnerable to both. Which actually makes it doubly exploitative to put lockboxes in a MMO.

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Zora

I’m fine with blunt, shameless, unapologetic statements.

The beast who roars in the open is easier to recognize as a menace than the one who sneaks in silently at night.

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Bruno Brito

And…who cares about what you perceive? That’s not how reality works, friend.

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Paragon Lost

Thanks for being bluntly honest Karl Slatoff, I’ll return the favor and state that I’ll now be passing on your mmo.

-Some whale player with a large disposable income to spend on his hobbies.

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John Kiser

You are fully aware that Red Dead Redemption isn’t an MMO ya? And he isn’t inherently wrong either. Loot boxes are not gambling in a traditional sense. You aren’t really “losing” anything in basic practice. Yes, you may not get the thing you want, but the important distinction for it to be gambling is that you aren’t actually getting anything if you lose so there is some credibility to the argument not finding them to be gambling.

That said no one forces players to buy these boxes or anything of the sort. There is this whole idea in people’s heads that is their own doing of a “gotta have it” sorta situation where they can go spend 1 – 2 k on loot boxes / lockboxes in the hopes to get something they really want. I personally don’t have a huge problem with them, but I do think that a regulatory body needs to mandate that they at minimum list drop rates and have drop rates be something that isn’t so obscenely low that people have to part with thousands to get something.

Atis
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Atis

Yes, you may not get the thing you want, but the important distinction for it to be gambling is that you aren’t actually getting anything if you lose so there is some credibility to the argument not finding them to be gambling.

Not a good excuse. If casino will give you a lollipop every time you lose, would they stop being gambling businesses? You won’t just get that pile of money you wanted, but you will get something.

cambruin
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cambruin

I only have time to play one or two games and this would never have been one of those 2.

Should I however be tempted to try it, I’ll just head over to the Pirate Bay or whatever. I don’t have a single illegal MP3, game or video or whatever, but these foul mechanics are a very good incentive for me to reconsider my morals.

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Dug From The Earth

This is clearly an experiment to test the strength of the popularity aspect of RDR vs the evil, maniacal, Lootboxes.

Ready….

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Grave Knight

And there went all my hopes for RDR2.

Also, I’m so surprised. Money grubbing CEO defends money grubbing.

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Robert Mann

RIP RDR2… I was interested, but now I’m betting I’ll never play you.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

Yeah, please don’t ruin RDR2 with this crap. I don’t care what you do with the multiplayer that I won’t bother with anyway but don’t go Shadow of War on us in the single player. Thanks.

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John Kiser

To be fair. The whole shadow of war thing only really effects you on the psuedo-multiplayer elements of the game in any meaningful way. You can play the game without spending a dime really.

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John Mclain

Always appreciate it when a game company basically tells me “We’re greedy little shits, don’t buy our games.” It saves me so much time. *Adds RDR2 to the DONT BUY list.*

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Schmidt.Capela

As always, Nintendo found a way to do join the party in a completely unexpected way.

They are releasing a Super Mario cereal. Real cereal, made by Kellogg’s. That you can get to make Mario literally grow stronger, as you can scan the box to unlock powerups in the latest Mario game.

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be rational

Since Nintendo has had themed cereal in the 80’s and companies have been offering in-game stuff along with physical product purchases for a while I’d say this is expected rather than not.
Also, everything you can get with the cereal box amiibo is accessible within the game. Arguably the most advantage you’d get is a highlight of a purple coin set location which you can buy in-game for like 50 regular coins. You could also just look up the location of all the purple coins too.

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Schmidt.Capela

Also, everything you can get with the cereal box amiibo is accessible within the game.

Yeah, amiibos are often used as physical, paid-for cheat codes by Nintendo.

Doesn’t change the irony that Nintendo is selling a literal, physical (cereal) box that gives in-game loot.

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Armsbend

Someone needs to let Mario know that frakenfood like Kellogg’s will kill him faster instead. best to stick with Luigi’s homemade pasta Mario.

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Armsbend

Well this pretty much tells me that RDR is just going to be the same bullshit collect-a-fest where development is trying to figure out how to maximize profit over anything else.

Thanks for the tip Karl. I’ll be avoiding this turd too. No franchise is worth the consumer gambling with their morals and perseverance over. RDR was a legend game. Fuck RDR2 and the horse it rode in on.

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Khalith .

No, they don’t force you to buy the microtransactions, that much is true. However, they sure as hell try and tempt you in to buying them in a predatory fashion to get you to start gambling on their boxes which is far more insidious in my opinion.

MICROTRANSACTIONS HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PLACE IN ANY GAME THAT YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR, AT ALL, EVER. Doesn’t matter if it’s cosmetic, pay to win, boosts, or whatever. I can look past a free to play game having them, but you either do a free to play game with microtransactions or a paid for game with none. This double dipping that game developers are doing needs to stop and it’s about time this became a headline.

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Robert Mann

I’ll pass a game with very minimal MTs and a box price, if it’s an online game with no sub… but it better be pretty lightweight on the MTs!

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A Dad Supreme

However, they sure as hell try and tempt you in to buying them in a predatory fashion to get you to start gambling on their boxes which is far more insidious in my opinion.

People try and tempt you into buying anything in a predatory fashion. That’s life.

Women put on heavy make-up to hide blemishes and appear more attractive than they really are. Guys suck in their guts and wear tight shirts to appear more buff or drive cars to suggest they are earning a great wage. Movies or television shows will say they are the “#1 rated movie/show” not telling you it was rated #1 by the West Virginia Express Times critic only. Car companies will tell you they are the “#1 selling car” not telling you they sold most of those because they had Federal government contracts that made up most of those sales. It goes on and on… restaurants, states trying to get companies, etc. It’s life, basically.

I see no reason to single out any gaming company for trying to entice or tempt players into spending loads of money. It’s their job… they aren’t a charity or some social organization.

It’s up to players to be smarter than that and show some self-restraint, but people want what they want, get it and then blame the company for ‘tricking them’. It’s strange that just saying “no” isn’t an option anymore or making sure your kid is responsible with their money isn’t in style.

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Wanda Clamshuckr

It’s up to players to be smarter than that and show some self-restraint

You’re not serious about expecting people to be self-restrained, right?

Let’s just imagine there weren’t speed limits, anywhere. That there weren’t legal drinking limits for age. That all drugs were legal, and could be used anywhere, in every situation. Etc, etc, ad infinitum.

Yeah. No.

That’s why we have laws, and regulations, and our society is managed. Gambling is no different.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

The problem isn’t that they try to tempt you to buy these things, it’s that when the gameplay experience is built around these things, it can ruin the core gameplay.

You compared it to real life? Let’s use an appropriate analogy for this point of view: Lets say you want to be a film director. You can get the job if you work hard in school, gain experience by working lesser jobs, save up, and then move to California. Once there you still have to apply for jobs, hone your writing, and all the other little things tantamount to grinding as you inevitably work your way to that ultimate goal. OR if you happen to have money to spare going into the whole thing you can just make a movie yourself. Skip school. Skip the experience grind and all of that. Your movie might suck, just as many who pay their way into games might still suck even with that better stuff, but you got there quicker and with much less effort. As the people in both scenarios work their way towards being good at what they do, the guy who can pay his way there will have always had an easier time getting there. It doesn’t matter who ends up better in the end but there’s a “grind” in place that forces those who cant (or wont) pay their way in to go through. If both sides had to grind or there was no grind in place at all, we’re only looking at the process of making the movie. Again, it doesn’t matter how good or bad your move is, just as it doesn’t matter how good or bad you perform in a game. How much work does the game force you to do just to be on equal footing with people who can just pay their way to the top?

That the pay-to-progress is random doesn’t make the situation better either. All that means is that those who are willing to pay will fall into one of two categories: They have enough money to keep buying until they get what they want or you don’t have money to blow like that or otherwise refuse to submit to the RNG of it all and just deal with the grind.

If instead both sides had to grind their way to the top and the only things you could pay for were cosmetic then the core experience wouldn’t change. The clothes you wear don’t have a direct impact on how well you do at school or how good your writing is, just as the color of your weapon doesn’t make it hit harder. The problem is that these publishers know that if there’s no advantage to cosmetics, no one will buy them; or at least not remotely enough people compared to those who would pay when there are advantages or conveniences to be had.

Does that make more sense? That’s why we hate these things.

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A Dad Supreme

The problem isn’t that they try to tempt you to buy these things, it’s that when the gameplay experience is built around these things, it can ruin the core gameplay.

The vast majority of games aren’t building their core gameplay around P2W lockboxes. Star Wars was the only one I see tie it directly to how you LEVELED up.

Most other games just offered the cash advantage which everyone, including me, don’t like. Please don’t take one or two games and then suggest that’s the industry, which is what the mob is doing.

The problem is two things: self restraint.. because at the end of the day, that’s what you have as a consumer.

The other is this stupid theory that cosmetic boxes aren’t to blame as much as the P2W boxes. In both cases, the people buying them aren’t telling the companies they support the game. They are saying I will pay extra for something you won’t give me that you normally used to for my fee/purchase.

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Schmidt.Capela

The vast majority of games aren’t building their core gameplay around P2W lockboxes.

Maybe not building, but tweaking? How do you know a game isn’t being tuned more difficulty than it otherwise should to push players towards microtransactions to make it easier? How do you know they aren’t keeping grind higher than it should be to sell XP and loot boosting items?

Even if it’s only cosmetics, how can you be sure the devs aren’t making the default skins and appearances you can get in-game worse just so players feel more enticed to purchase cosmetic items?

In short, how can you be sure the devs aren’t making the experience intentionally worse for people that purchase the base game, or pay the basic subscription, but don’t shell out for the microtransactions?

Siphaed
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Siphaed

I’ve seen these predatory actions miles away years and years ago. Who was it…oh, Michael Pachter. This guy from Wedbush Securities was hired by EA and other companies over and over again in order to “analyze” how to squeeze more money out of customers. He gave a tumbs up to Call of Duty’s sell of gun packs and subscription thingy, microtranactions, and other hideously scrupulous anti-consumer activities that the games industry has done over the years.

And you’re wonder why some developers are backing it? Because guys like Pachter are the bug-in-the-ear telling them that even with a small amount of push back, their “bottom line” would overall improve if they just vacuum the pockets of their base followers.

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jay

Remind me to stay away from Red Dead Redemption 2. I’ll put my money somewhere else, you don’t back up the school bully and hope to be popular by doing so.

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Utakata

Good for them! I hope they don’t choke on it though. /bleh

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Jeffrey Meade

If any game operates anything like Battlefront 2 moving forward I will never buy it. The developers and publishers can do what they want and have whatever opinion they want, but we as the consumers can also not spend money on their shitty products.

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Ben Stone

At the very least there should be Japanese level regulation where the odds must be clearly disclosed. Saying you have an awesome item up for grabs when its 0.1% chance is super predatory.

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Armsbend

I’m still not buying it at this point. Instead of crafting stories, combat systems and artwork they are busy at work crafting ways to rip off their customers. No thanks.

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Danny Smith

Well thats a sequel to a game i love off my future purchase list. If a dev wants micropay freebuys good for them, we know whales make the money for them but after seeing what GTA turned into thats a hard ‘no thanks’ for me.

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Juu ken

“You can’t force the consumer to do anything.”

Mhm … You can’t force people to sit down at a blackjack or roulette table. Neither can you force them to use a slot machine, or to participate in a lottery. Last time I checked, you cannot even force them to roll the dice.

That’s precisely the reason this stuff isn’t regulated at all. Nowhere …

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johnwillo

comment image

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

I’m happy to buy a hat or not or a bandanna or jacket. I’d rather be able to purchase what I want rather than purchase a chance at what I want but most likely something I don’t want. I refuse to spend money like that again. Trying to get a griffon mount skin in GW2 finally rid me of the last vestige of RNG I was willing to put up with on a cash shop.

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theblackmage75

If his vision for microtransactions in RDR2 plays out anything like it did for NBA 2k18, he can expect to find himself sitting on the hotseat in just a short time. I’m torn these days between being grateful that publishers have so openly made clear that they have no scruples about encumbering gameplay in favor of maximal amounts of cash and feeling saddened that the pastime I’ve had since grade school is morphing into something crass and ugly and increasingly unlovable.

pepperzine
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pepperzine

If it’s anything besides cosmetics in their lockboxes they better be ready for boycotting.

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Darthbawl

Not shocked at all that this guy is defending lockboxes. They are a gravy train for them. It’s all about the $$$ to them.

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Utakata

An off-topic note of sorts to the context of this image, as I am a Gnome who dwells where this was taken. And where “stopping the gravy train” was the predecessor of “draining the swamp”. So a warning to the wise: Be very weary of any politician that uses either or both in their election material. /sigh

…as you where everyone. :)

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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A Dad Supreme

As a player over the years, it feels like developer meetings went like this:

“Hey, you know what would be cool? If we had a quest where people did X, Y, Z then at the end they got this funky hat as a reward!”

Now it seems that meetings go more like:

“Hey, you know what would be cool? If we had this quest where people did X, Y, Z and got this basic, boring hat as a reward but then we sell five different funkier hats in the cash shop that did this, this and this as a skin for $25 instead!”

or just:

“Meh. Screw the quest. Just sell the hats. They’ll buy ’em.”

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Don’t blame the players for not wanting to buy their way out of a situation you designed into the game hoping to increase microtransactions.

and

The predatory economy was created in order to get the most amount of money out of the player in ways that were rightly seen as manipulative and uncompetitive.

and

EA thought players weren’t smart enough to see through the money grab of Battlefront 2, . . . and EA executives are calmly explaining the real issue is they overestimated our enthusiasm for our skin melting off.

Go, Polygon. I really don’t have a problem with spending money in games. If I like a game, I actually like to spend more money on it to let the devs know of my enthusiasm. But what I sincerely dislike about MTXs and lockboxes in particular is this right here:

The predatory economy designed into the game to manipulate players to spend money. MTXs stop being an adjunct to the game and become what the game is all about.

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A Dad Supreme

If I like a game, I actually like to spend more money on it to let the devs know of my enthusiasm.

But that’s just it, Ash. That’s the problem right there.

By saying you like to spend extra money in games for cash shop items, a company has no idea that you are doing that because you are “supporting the game”.

They see cash shop sales by Ash’s account this year: “$200” and think “This guy/gal really likes our cash shop. Put more items in there.”

Players think they are “supporting” the game by purchasing non-P2W and avoiding P2W as a difference, but a company just sees numbers and not sentiment. All the company sees is you support their cash shop.

A company has no way of discerning “support” from “Gotta have it all” mentality… which is why I keep saying stop buying fluff items period.

That way they know for sure people don’t like the shop but like the game. (because they monitor how much Ash and Friends play each day/hour already)

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Robert Mann

Thus why my support of games tends to be more “Hey, this cool game has no cash shop, and I really like it, word to my friends!” They may or may not buy it, but if they do I really am supporting a game and company that has delivered something worthwhile.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

That’s a very valid point. And probably why we are where we are today.

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A Dad Supreme

Shit Ash.

That’s a perfectly rational response to sometimes contentious argument around here by me with these cash shops in general.

Thanks for being a grown-up and not just a “Me Too” person.

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hardy83

This just makes me want loot boxes to get regulated even more.
While I do think it’s gambling, the sheer satisfaction I’ll get watching this executives squirm and white, as well is the mobile market getting utterly destroyed will be euphoric.

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A Dad Supreme

This just makes me want loot boxes to get regulated even more.

Not surprisingly, I got the opposite reaction than you.

I took the guy’s statement that ” You can’t force the consumer to do anything” particularly reassuring, upfront, responsible and common-sense.

I know you, on the other hand, have that whole “what about addiction and kids” thing to worry about so…

Dantos
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Dantos

Well thats where the marketing comes in, you cant FORCE someone to buy a thing, but you can make it more likely that they will, or making a purchase ‘feel better’ though manipulation of value expectations and marketing. If that stuff didnt work, then things like the JC Penny effect wouldnt have happened

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A Dad Supreme

That’s our society and people are born knowing that… at least in the US anyways. It’s already a known.

We know it’s a capitalist market and companies will try to sell you everything through trying to make you “feel” like you need it or even want it.

It’s personal responsibility to say “No, I’m not buying that hat because I think you should put it in the game with content surrounding it. Then I’ll buy your expansion, but not paying enough to fund an expansion from a cash shop.”

That’s just a personal feel though. I don’t expect anyone or everyone to boycott a cash shop totally… people just don’t either have the will or see it the same way.

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nobleeinherjar

From the mouth of the man who said he wants microtransactions/lockboxes in every 2K game going forward? What a surprise!

He’s right, though. You can’t force consumers to do anything. That’s why they subtly try to manipulate consumers instead.

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BalsBigBrother

Well I imagine this statement is going to go down well with the torch and pitchfork folks

Oh well, get yer pitchforks here freshly sharpened, torches guaranteed to burn all night.

/sigh

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Robert Mann

Hey, when you have dung and trash, you get your pitchfork to pile it and your torch to burn it…

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A Dad Supreme

I’m already counting the “Red Dead is Dead to Me” comments forthcoming. /smh

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Ashfyn Ninegold

” . . . You try to do your best to create the best experience you possibly can to drive engagement. And driving engagement creates value in entertainment. That’s just how it’s always been and always will be.”

Hope he listens to himself. But it really sounds like he just wants to engage the “consumer” wallet and not the player’s fantasy or excitement. Games that require you to pay and pay to experience content is not value entertainment.

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thirtymil

The moment I hear words like ‘play its course’ and ‘driving engagement’, and corporate slanting like ‘we don’t view that sort of thing as gambling’, I lose the urge to play any associated games at all.

Yeah, I get it, it’s a business for them – but sheesh, have some love for your work.

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Phantom Hal

Thank you for informing us Take two President Karl, just canceled my pre-order for Red Dead.
Since this company is defending lootboxes in Battlefront 2 I will wait to see how theirs work as I don’t do Pay to win crap

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MrNastyButler

Had no plans to play this game and defending the lootbox just re-enforced it. Wish they’d focus more on a storefront instead of gambling boxes.

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Peregrine Falcon

Why do people keep conflating lootboxes and microtransactions? They’re not the same thing.

Sounds like they’re trying to link the two in a desperate attempt to defend their precious gamble-addiction-boxes.

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Sterling

Probably because lockboxes are by definition microtransactions.

antheriel
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antheriel

It’s possible that all lockboxes are microtransactions (although they could sell expensive lockboxes), but it’s certainly not true that all microtransactions are lockboxes.

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Sterling

but it’s certainly not true that all microtransactions are lockboxes.

Nowhere did I claim this was the case.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Sorry, Sterling. It’s early morning here and I may not be entirely awake. Didn’t mean to imply that at all. I was really just enthusiastically agreeing with Antheriel.

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Sterling

Tis all good. I am familiar with the morning grumps.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

There is definitely a difference. And conflating the two does not do anyone any favors.

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A Dad Supreme

There is a difference in items acquired in some instances, but they all are the same thing.. a micro-transaction.

Basically, a way to acquire items that are usually not provided in the game proper during play for additional coinage of either a small or a large fee.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Indeed. But with a lockbox, you have no idea what you are getting. On the other hand if you decide to invest in a Potion of Thisnthat, you know exactly what you’re getting.

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Sterling

Both serve the same underlying purpose though: a paywall on content. One is simply much more egregious about it.

A good read on the subject this morning: https://kotaku.com/in-game-purchases-poison-the-well-1820844066

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A Dad Supreme

Precisely.

Whether it’s a cheap “innocuous” silly hat or an expensive “pay to win” weapon, they are all microtransactions and serve the same purpose; hold back ideas, items and content which should be in the game to sell at a higher premium in the cash shop.

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Schmidt.Capela

The main reason I’m okay with microtransactions in (non-subscription) MMOs is because I’m aware the devs need a revenue stream to keep the game running. If they don’t charge a subscription, and don’t sell expansions, it’s going to be microtransactions.

Which is also why I’m usually not willing to put up with microtransactions in other kinds of games. If the game has a subscription, or sells yearly expansions, there’s your revenue stream. If the game’s development has already ceased, as usually happens with offline games shortly after release, then it doesn’t need a revenue stream anymore.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

And I don’t disagree. But I think it gets messy if we can’t identify lockboxes as a particular kind of MTX that has a different impact. You may not agree, of course. And that’s what makes a horse race, assuming, of course, that there’s a mount in your lockbox.

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Sterling

But I think it gets messy if we can’t identify lockboxes as a particular kind of MTX that has a different impact.

If we were having this discussion a year or three ago, I might have agreed with you. There’s definitely merit in being specific. But we’re at a point where publishers have gone so bloody insane with their microtransactions (not solely lockboxes) that the entire equation needs to be revisited.

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BDJ

Please tell me how you would keep games running if you were the exec.

This isn’t the old NES / SNES glory days. No games are offline anymore. Most of them have servers or online components.

A boxes price just doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s why the “season pass” exists now.

And I’m sorry, but I think our views of what “content” means is very different. Cosmetics aren’t content. They are items.
“Episodes” like Final Fantasy XV has released, are content. Do you think you should receive these episodes for free even though they were developed after the initial release of the game?

Honestly, this is what all of the micro trans haters dislike. They want everything for free after the initial purchase. Free doesn’t continue to pay the salaries of the people developing the additional content. Free doesn’t pay the continued maintenance for the online components that almost every game released has now. Micros are one of the main ways to cover this cost.

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Robert Mann

If all these games really need to be online (let’s face it, a very large number of rather hot games are NOT online) then they should have reasonable transactions or a fee to maintain service. One or the other, and nothing stupid. There’s no need for a multiplayer combat matching game to charge $15/month for servers while doing no development, for example.

Richard de Leon III
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Richard de Leon III

Guess I wont be buying red dead, gta6, or borderlands 3….ugh. Oh well, the older games are great enough to last a lifetime.

Coolit
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Coolit

Yet another game to avoid.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

.

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thirtymil

I’m trying not to :)

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Sterling

Given that Take-Two have made microtransactions the core of their business model moving forward, this isn’t a surprise.

In related news, to hell with that.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Was actually surprised at my lack of surprise.

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A Dad Supreme

“That’s going to play its course, but in terms of the consumer and the noise you hear in the market right now, it’s all about content […] You can’t force the consumer to do anything.

Meh. Statement doesn’t bother me. I actually agree with this part.

Will buy the game. Won’t buy any lockboxes, cosmetic or otherwise because they can’t force me to do anything.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

urgh.

wpDiscuz