lockboxes

Webzen is removing Mu Origin from service in the Netherlands over loot boxes

The ultimate goal of most legislation introduced vis-a-vis loot boxes generally seems aimed at making the companies behind these games change the mechanics of the aforementioned boxes. However, Webzen has reacted to new laws in the Netherlands with a more efficient stance. Mu Origin will no longer be available in the country as of June 20th, removed from both the Google Play store and the iOS stores in the region. The game will remain available for play elsewhere.

There’s no mention of any compensation for players who had spent money on the title in the past or whether refunds will be offered, although the game’s services will remain available in other countries with (presumably) no changes. Our condolences to Dutch players unable to enjoy the title any longer.

Source: Official Site via MMORPG.com. We have corrected our original report to clarify it’s Mu Origin affected, not Mu Legend.

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South Korea continues to hand out fines for deceptive lootbox practices

Nexon isn’t the only Korean studio that has been targeted by the government and fined for dishonest practices with its online games and lockboxes. The South Korean Fair Trade Commission has handed out $950,000 in fines to the country’s studios for deceiving players and failing to provide accurate odds for winning any particular prize.

The three studios punished for their transgressions are Nexon ($875,000), Netmarble ($55,000), and NextFloor ($4,600). The Korea Herald notes, “The [South Korean] FTC’s actions have signaled alarm across the Korean game sector, as it could hurt the sales of in-game items — particularly randomized items, which users tend to continuously buy until they get a desired result — that contribute immensely to profits.”

Is this enough of a penalty to make the eastern market be more responsible with its lockbox policies, or are these fines merely a slap on the wrist? We will see.

Source: Korea Herald via Kotaku

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Former BioWare boss expounds on EA’s role in substudios and business models

Everybody loves to dump on EA for wrecking companies like BioWare and escalating microtransactions and lockboxes to ludicrous heights, but is it warranted? Kotaku recently spoke to former BioWare studio boss Aaryn Flynn for the skinny.

“I think there’s this perspective among gamers – angry gamers – that EA comes along and buys studios and ruins them, or EA is forcing microtransactions,” Kotaku suggests. But Flynn isn’t having any.

“I think they are a great company to be a part of because they care very much about the creative process – they care about that – so they want you to be successful, and they will do whatever they can to help you be successful. Every company’s got constraints […] but they are excellent at giving creative freedom for sure.”

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The Daily Grind: Have you ever won anything amazing in a lockbox?

With all of the discussion and controversy over MMO lockboxes as of late (you might have seen something), one thing we haven’t talked about much is the actual prizes inside of them. It’s pretty common knowledge that most of the time, you’re going to get really cruddy and disposable rewards (but you’ll be haunted by the possibility of something better, which keeps you coming back).

But, hey, there are always those rare times that you pull out a golden goose rather than a garden variety sparrow from the hat. Have you ever won anything amazing in a lockbox? I can’t recall too many times that this has happened to me, as I only open boxes when I’m given free keys. I did once get a reusable makeup kit from Guild Wars 2 that was pretty handy, and Secret World Legends did toss some 80s-era roller skates my way as a funky “mount.”

What about you?

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Extra Credits raises concerns over lootbox legislation

Just for the record, we are not the only ones engaged in the discussion and controversy surrounding lockboxes and lootboxes as of late. YouTube channel Extra Credits put together an entertaining and informative video that brings everyone up to speed on what’s happening with all of this, even if you’ve been out of the loop.

The video does raise some concerns about what might happen if and when governments get involved in legislating lootboxes under gambling laws. Some of these concerns have to do with states that consider gambling illegal, access to games with “gambling” if you are under 21 years of age, varying forms of lootboxes, and studios worrying about lawsuits from players over bans if that person has digital property with monetary value. Regular readers will recall a few months back when our SWTOR columnist considered the direct implications for his own game too.

“There are a whole bunch of effects this legislation could have on gaming beyond simply restricting lootboxes as a model,” the video argues. “So we have to be incredibly careful about how we approach this legislation.”

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Paladins begins testing its battle royale mode and removes controversial lootboxes

While it’s not as cool of a name as “Thunderdome,” Paladins’ Battlegrounds is still likely to attract plenty of bloodthirsty savages looking for a good scrap.

The new game mode, which is pretty much your now-standard battle royale (complete with the ever-shrinking walls of poison fog), arrived in Open Beta 66 this past Wednesday. Other changes that came with the patch include a Facebook Live streaming option, changes to the minimum system requirements, and a required level of 15 for the classic siege mode.

Hi-Rez has had its hands full this week. The studio faced an uprising from players following the addition of lootboxes in Update 64. These lootboxes, which came in the form of cards, were seen as pay-to-win by many and resulted in players flooding the Paladins subreddit with crappy card art as a way to mock the move. This goofy protest paid off, and Hi-Rez announced that it will be removing and replacing the system.

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds very slightly changes its paid and free lootbox system

A new patch for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds means new loot crates, and that also means that you have an option for one that you can open for free and one that will cost you money. However, the latest patch has at least changed the system very slightly so that the new paid crate is not among those randomly dropped to you on a regular basis. You have to specifically select the paid crate in order for it to turn up.

We should stress, however, that this only applies to the new paid crate; the old paid crate, the Desperado crate, is still in the rotation and will still cost you money to open. So you could argue that if what you really wanted was to not get a crate that asked you for money in the game, all that’s happened is that your odds of getting one have dropped to 20%. Which is still progress, albeit perhaps not the amount of progress you would like.

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Cyberpunk 2077’s CD Projekt Red takes a stand against lockboxes and unfinished games

The studio behind The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t mincing words when it comes to business practices that involve lockboxes and partially delivered games.

“If you buy a full priced game, you should get a big, polished piece of content, which gives you many, many hours of fun gameplay,” said Co-Founder Marcin Iwiński. “The moment [the community] feels you are reaching out for their wallet in any unfair way, they will be vocal about it. And — frankly speaking — I think it’s good for the industry. Things often look great from a spreadsheet perspective, but decision makers often aren’t asking themselves the question of ‘How would gamers feel, or is this offer a fair one?’ Gamers are striking back, and I really hope this will change our industry for the better.”

Iwiński said that the studio is focusing on its sci-fi game instead of another Witcher title: “In terms of big RPGs, it’s time for Cyberpunk 2077.” He admitted that the game is “a huge responsibility” but that the studio will step up to the challenge and deliver.

Fans should be able to hear about and see more of Cyberpunk 2077, as the title is widely rumored to be coming to this year’s E3 in June.

Source: PC Gamer

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Dauntless argues ‘bespoke purchases’ are replacing the lockbox model

It might be tempting to think that the industry is doomed and that no studio will ever be able to ignore the siren song of easy lootbox, but the parade of MMOs and online games that are bucking the trend just keeps coming. The parade now includes Dauntless, which just closed out a Series B investment round. And money helps – but that isn’t the whole story of why. As Phoenix Labs CEO Jesse Houston told GIbiz, who the heck enjoys running a company specializing in squeezing cash out of gamer wallets?

“I would rather run a business where we are 100% focused on delivering awesome player experiences and building a game for a community than trying to find the best way to optimize every dime out of them,” he says.

Moreover, lockboxes change the way players actually play.

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Hawaii state rep Chris Lee has now introduced four bills regulating lockboxes

Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee has made good on his plan to write and submit bills to the state legislature regulating the sale of video games with predatory lockboxes. The four bills are straightforward: Two seek to block the sale of video games with random-reward gambleboxes to people under the age of 21 (gambling age in Hawaii as well as many other US states), while the other pair requires proper labeling of the gambling mechanics on game boxes as well as disclosure of probability rates of items inside the boxes.

As GIbiz points out, up to now the only active bill on the topic in the US was a demand for more research by Washington representatives.

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Washington state senator proposes lockbox gambling investigation in new bill

Hawaiian politicians are getting some company on the lockbox front from a compatriot in Washington state.

State Senator Kevin Ranker has introduced legislation there that forces the gaming industry and state gambling officials to determine whether lootboxes/lockboxes in video games constitute gambling under state law – and whether they target minors. According to the Tacoma-based News Tribune, Ranker is pushing specifically for regulation that results in the publication of odds for lockbox mechanics in video games.

“If (parents) realized how predatory these game are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids,” he reportedly said.

Should the provisional bill pass, the determination must be made by December of this year.

Source: Washington Senate Bill 6266, News Tribune via GIbiz. Thanks, Paragonlostinspace and Fábio.

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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds adds new crate drops with a 0.01% drop rate for items

Hey, kids, you like random cosmetic rewards, right? The latest patch currently in testing for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds adds two new crates that can drop when you spend BP on a crate drop, and one of them requires a (paid) key to open. The other can be opened for free. Within both crates are a number of new cosmetic items, some of which have an astonishing 0.01% drop rate in the free crate. That means that on average, you would need to open 10,000 crates to see one of these things drop.

A helpful examination of other games with cosmetic crates reveals that those games tend to top out at one best-possible drop closer to once every 10 loot boxes opened. It’s also far easier or cheaper to get those boxes. Granted, we don’t yet know how much the keys for the paid crate are going to cost, and the drop rates are slightly better in the paid box (the rarest paid item has a 0.16% drop rate), but it’s still the sort of gouging for single items that is unlikely to sit well with anyone once the numbers are made clear.

At least the drop rates are right in the patch notes. That’s helpful.

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How video game lockboxes use psychology to manipulate you

We here at Massively OP can’t get rid of lockboxes, but by gum, we’re not going to roll over and give up on fighting them. At the very least, we can help to educate the gaming public about the insidious nature of these gambleboxes.

In that spirit, we want to share this post on the psychology of lockboxes and gambling and how both casinos and video game studios use the same techniques to manipulate players into spending far more than they ever should. There are five tricks listed: the gambler’s falacy, the sunk costs effect, the availability heuristic, the illusion of control, and the near-miss illusion.

“Casinos long ago discovered that if they let a player make some kind of meaningless choice or tap a button to potentially ‘nudge’ a slot machine reel into a winning position, they would love it and gamble more,” author Jamie Madigan notes. “Even when the odds of winning are held constant. You could totally do this with loot boxes, too. Instead of clicking on a loot box to open it, let them choose between three boxes, all of which in reality have the same contents.”

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