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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Last week, we posted a rundown of the most popular MMORPG articles of 2017, calculated strictly by the number of pageviews they got. Today, we’re going to take a look at the most popular articles of 2017 as measured by comments, which provides an entirely different overview of the year and the genre.
This list is a little wonky as we couldn’t keep a lot of our January comments when we were booted off Livefyre. (Some of the old comments were restored, but others were simply lost because Livefyre wasn’t properly saving them back. Long story.) So technically, we lost a month. Still, I think we have a pretty good picture of what people really truly want to talk about (which isn’t always the same thing you like to click on!).
Let’s review. Paladins, as it stands now, has a system wherein characters get cards that can be used to power up playable characters. You craft them or get them from loot chests. The game’s latest patch removes that restriction entirely, giving every player access to every card in the game. So far, so good. Except those cards also need to be ranked up from rank I to rank V, with rank V being the most powerful, and every card players already own will automatically be ranked at III.
How do you rank cards up? Why, by getting duplicates of the same card. Except the crafting currency is also going away, so the only way to get a rank up is by pulling the same card from (all together now) lockboxes. Needless to say, players have already cried foul on this system, claiming that it unfairly forces people into paying without actually improving the game experience. There’s a whole video down below on just how bad the math works out for players; it’s worth a watch.
Among the controversy of EA’s pay-to-win lockboxes in Star Wars Battlefront II emerges a rather reasonable question: Why didn’t the studio create and use cosmetic rewards in these lockboxes rather than selling progression through them?
An EA spokesperson claimed that the company was concerned about “violating the canon of Star Wars” with pink-skinned Darth Vaders and the like, but it turns out that such cosmetic customization was in the works all along. Fans have found a hidden customization menu for characters tucked away in the game’s coding that wasn’t activated for release, hinting that the team had originally envisioned allowing players to adopt and use all sorts of cosmetic skins.
Meanwhile, another one of EA’s upcoming titles is falling under increased scrutiny with its microtransactions model. UFC 3 recently went into beta testing, during which players discovered that “the more a player invests into their account the better their performance will be in game.” Yes, it’s loot crates all over again becoming the gatekeeper to progression, holding access to “every single technique, fighter, and stat roll.”
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.
It looks as though the rebels may have defeated the empire — or at least struck a mighty blow to give the latter pause.
CNBC is reporting that the fallout from EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II and its lockboxes has done serious damage to the company’s bottom line. EA’s stock price dove 8.5% following the uproar over Battlefront’s egregious lockboxes, the resulting decision to (temporarily) remove them from the business model, and weaker than expected sales. This means that $3.1 billion of shareholder value has now vanished. That’s no small potatoes.
Wall Street Analyst Doug Creutz said that this may be the catalyst that sets some serious changes in motion for the video game industry: “We think the time has come for the industry to collectively establish a set of standards for MTX implementation, both to repair damaged player perceptions and avoid the threat of regulation.”
While you were eating turkey and buying loot this past weekend, the lockbox saga was trundling onward.
The UK Gambling Commission has formally stated that it does not believe lootboxes and lockboxes should be classified as gambling – yet. “A key factor in deciding if that line has been crossed is whether in-game items acquired ‘via a game of chance’ can be considered money or money’s worth,” says the commission. “In practical terms this means that where in-game items obtained via loot boxes are confined for use within the game and cannot be cashed out it is unlikely to be caught as a licensable gambling activity. In those cases our legal powers would not allow us to step in.”
That said, the commission further notes that even if certain “activities” like lockboxes fail to meet the legal definition of gambling, it has a responsibility to parents and children.
“We are concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred. Where it does meet the definition of gambling it is our job to ensure that children are protected and we have lots of rules in place, like age verification requirements, to do that.”