A formal UK petition requesting that video game gambling laws be adjusted to include language covering lockboxes passed 10,000 signatures earlier this week, ensuring that the petition would receive a response from the government, which it now has, although no one concerned about the issue will be impressed at the reply.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Tracey Crouch is a bit of a dodge, like PEGI’s statement earlier this week. As Eurogamer points out, Crouch’s reply – repeated verbatim for each question asked – refers to the UK Gambling commission’s paper on third-party gambling websites, which as you’ll recall since we covered it has nothing to do with in-game lockboxes.
The ESRB may not be interested in protecting gamers against predatory business model practices like lockboxes, but European regulators may be joining their Chinese counterparts in at least taking a look before casually dismissing concerns.
As Polygon reports, a member of the UK parliament, Daniel Zeichner, submitted formal questions to the UK’s secretary of state on topic, requesting information on her plan to “to protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games,” specifically on the Isle of Man, whose legal code refers by name to “in-game gambling and loot boxes.”
Meanwhile, the European PEGI – akin to the ESRB on this side of the pond – has said that it can’t rule on the issue for game studios because it “cannot define what constitutes gambling” because it’s not a national gambling commission – contrary to the ESRB’s statement.
So, MMO players. Are you tired of hearing about lockboxes and gambleboxes? It feels like we’ve been complaining about them for like six or seven years now, probably because we have. It wasn’t cute back when City of Heroes was trying it, nope. Heck, it wasn’t cute back when Star Wars Galaxies was trying it with card packs. Now it’s every damn game, and it’s gone way beyond MMOs. I’m not sick of hearing about it myself. I’m just sick of dealing with it like a pestilence making me hate the games and developers who exploit them.
Maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: As more AAA online gaming studios figure out that lockbox gambling garbage is a fast ticket to easy money, more mainstream gamers are catching wind of the scam and raising objections, so it’s not just MMO players all by our lonesomes anymore. Indeed, this week multiple game critics, YouTubers, and review services have come out against lockboxes, from Boogie to TotalBiscuit, the latter of whom has called for ESRB intervention. Reviews aggregator OpenCritic has further said it’s “going to take a stand against loot boxes” by taking crappy business practices into account. The ESRB doesn’t care, by the way, and as blogger Isarii has pointed, the self-regulatory body has conveniently twisted the meaning of gambling to avoid dealing with the problem, thereby failing to protect us from it, but that’s just making people angrier.
So hey, you know what, studios? Keep screwing up with lootboxes. Keep attracting mainstream anger, keep disrespecting us, until it all boils over, one way or another, and you can’t exploit us anymore. And in the meantime, people? Stop. Buying. Lockboxes.
Pretty cheesed off over Lord of the Rings Online’s
plans to stuff best-in-slot gear into lootboxes
with the upcoming instance cluster? Don’t hold your breath waiting for Standing Stone Games to back down.
The studio posted a couple of responses to the furor over the decision, basically justifying the move and indicating that no changes would be made. Executive Producer Robert Ciccolini posted this yesterday:
Our goal is that you can earn — while playing the game — all statistical bonuses that you can get from lootboxes. In the case of the vendor rings, they will also have a chance to drop in the upcoming raid. That drop can also upgrade, so upgraded rings will be possible to obtain in game. We realize that having a short period where they are in the lootboxes before the raid is available is not ideal, but players will be able to get upgraded rings in game. If players find other statistical bonuses in lootboxes that cannot be duplicated in game they should definitely bring them here.
Edit: One point of clarification; there are upgraded items in the raid that are better than anything a player can get with a lootbox.
It is not going to shock you to hear that lockboxes are kind of evil. We here at Massively OP have been beating on that drum for years now. But studios keep selling them and players keep buying them, so on the drum beat goes.
If you’ve brushed off the insidious nature of lockboxes so far, it might behoove you to read this piece from PC Gamer that takes an unflinching look at how game designers use specific, targeted elements to prey upon players’ psychology and brain chemistry — and that many of these techniques are the same ones employed by gambling establishments.
Why do lockboxes work so well? Something called “variable rate reinforcement” factors into it, says Dr. Luke Clark of the Center for Gambling Research: “The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably. We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”
Source: PC Gamer
. Thanks Agemyth and Pierre!
By chance, a whole bunch of industry-related. Well, not entirely by chance; our tipsters showered us in VR links in particular. We’ve rounded everything up for a quick look at what’s going on in the depths of the game industry’s moneybags.
- USA Today mocks VR, pointing out that devices’ game offerings are still weak and running down all the big platforms.
- AMC, however, is all in on virtual reality — in movie theaters.
- Intel’s Project Alloy VR headset is dead before it began, without much explanation. “Project Alloy served as a great proof of concept for Intel and the industry – showing what’s possible in a high-performance, immersive and untethered VR experience,” the company reportedly said. “What we’ve learned through Project Alloy will inform future efforts.”
- Want to feel creeped out? Goldman Sachs is poking around in digital gaming, paying attention to mobile, business models, and e-sports. Spoiler, they looooooove how the gaming business model is shaping up.
RuneScape announced yesterday a new promo that works in conjunction with its existing Treasure Hunter system. It’s a bit of a lockbox system, with the caveat that you can claim one to two keys to open said lockboxes for free every day just for logging in, depending on your sub status in the hybrid MMO. If you want more, then you have to buy them with cash.
The promotion, however, changes things up. “With every Key you use, you have a chance to earn a bonus prize on the Prize Pool interface at the top of the screen,” says Jagex. “Claim that extra prize immediately, or use more Keys to get a chance at more, rarer, prizes. Every Key you use will apply one of two actions: add an extra prize to your pool, or remove all prizes gathered so far from it. The longer you hold out without claiming, the more extra prizes you can claim and the rarer your prize pool collection will get. But be careful – you could lose it all!”
That’s prompted players who normally don’t find the treasure hunter lockboxes particularly problematic to flock to Reddit with a multitude of complaints ranging from accusations that the promo is rigged to concerns that the game is shamelessly promoting gambling to a game chiefly aimed at kids.
MMO blogger Ethan “Isarii” Macfie made an interesting point in one of his recent Critical Writ videos that I think deserves some amplification and debate. He argues that lockboxes are fairly compared to gambling — but in fact, they’re far worse.
In a traditional gambling setup, he notes, you might have 99 losers in a group of 100. The payment provided by the losers literally pays the winners (as well as pays for the infrastructure behind the casino). Without the losers’ cash, the casinos would have nothing to give to the winners – the risk is the only thing the casinos have to trade on.
In video gaming, however, that’s not how it works. A video game company is capable of selling gameplay as a product. There’s no fundamental scarcity of pixels in a digital game, and the profits from lockboxes aren’t going back to the winners in any sort of tangible way. Lockboxes merely allow the studio to create losers from pure greed. As he puts it, “They choose to introduce these goods in a way that creates losers out of their customers who don’t get what they want and have to take more chances possibly still not getting what they want to really purchase what they’re trying to purchase.”
Do you agree with Isarii? Is he right that MMO lockboxes are even worse than gambling?
Gamers talk a big talk about horse armor DLC and pay-to-win and the evils of cash shops, but y’all keep buying anyway.
That’s according to gaming research analysis firm SuperData, which today released an excerpt from its pricey report on digital console revenue for 2017. More than half of all digital console revenue this year, the firm says, will come from “additional content” like DLC and cash-shop microtransactions. That number is half again as high for the top-earning console games from the last few years.
Fully “39% of first-year additional content revenue for all titles is made in the first 3-to-6 months, leaving game publishers with a tight time frame to release new content,” argues SuperData. “Digital console consumers are hungry for more content as soon as they are done with the core gameplay. Most single player games have a gameplay timeframe between 10-to-40 hours within their single-player mode. It is not hard to see why over a third of console players believe that publishers should release content every 3-to-6 months. Over a fourth of them believe additional content should be released at least once a month. Publishers are warned to be wary of releasing content too close to the release date, since consumers see that tactic as profiting off content that should otherwise have been released with the full game.”
Warframe’s Digital Extremes
is joining the very small list of online game developers being transparent about just what’s in their lockboxes, lootboxes, gambleboxes, lootcrates
, or whatever you want to call them. In fact, the data dump
it’s produced actually covers all loot drops rates in the game, something researchers have been calling for
“Warframe is free! Which means our drop system is designed to maintain a balance,” DE writes. “Our free players can earn the game’s content, and our paying players who support us with purchases usually get first dibs on the content by using Platinum (which can be traded to free players)! As far as we can tell… we are the first developers to post something quite like this – correct us if we’re wrong! Let’s hope it works out for us and we may start a trend.”
If you’re playing Marvel Heroes
on console and were hoping for a change in how the game handles lockboxes and individual costumes, the good news is that a change is
coming. The bad news, though, is what sort
of change is coming. On June 30th, all individual costumes for characters will no longer be available for purchase
; instead, they’ll all be part of a rotating set of costumes available within lockboxes, with a chunk of boxes being awarded automatically at certain leveling milestones.
Players are not particularly happy about this change as a whole, since it addresses the problem of “some costumes are only available by random chance” by making all costumes random. A developer response assures players that there will be other means to acquire lockboxes through gameplay, but that doesn’t address the central complaint about removing any control over costume rewards. The developers have also stated that the previous a la carte model simply wasn’t sustainable in the longer term, but that alone is unlikely to mollify players.
Since the only real form of progress in Overwatch involves skins, there’s nothing more frustrating than opening a few dozen lockboxes and seeing every rare skin be the same one… for a character you don’t even play. The latest development update from director Jeff Kaplan notes that the team is aware of the problem, and steps are being taken to ensure that the number of duplicate items received will be dramatically reduced in the future.
You don’t need to worry about losing out on the buy-anything credits, though; the credits you get from loot boxes will also be increased, so you should find yourself getting more credits even as you get fewer duplicates of things you already have. How well this will map out in particular remains to be seen, but it’s an effort to mitigate the randomness that’s always underpinned the game’s lockbox structure. Kaplan also discusses ongoing improvements to the highlights feature; you can watch the full development update just below.
The first and most-backed City of Heroes successor City of Titans has a couple of dev pieces out this month answering questions posed to Missing Worlds Media this past spring. The Q&A itself is relatively brief, letting players know that powerset interactive effects (like team combos) are not on the table, minions will be customizable, the team is working on ways to thwart gold spammers and bots, PvP has a Rock Paper Scissors design goal, and the game is alt-centric but “won’t be ignoring endgame content.”
“Not only will there be content released for the entire level range throughout its lifetime, but we’ve designed several systems, both content centric and others, to enhance the experience of alting,” says the studio.
Last week, MWM told fans that City of Titans model will be a hybrid of a sub and free-to-play system, with an up-front cost that comes with complete access to the game and VIP status for a three months. It’ll also come with an optional subscription and a stipend of currency, dubbed Stars, for spending in the cash shop.