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!
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?
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.”
As Asian countries are cracking down on online games with lockbox gambling, gaming companies are complying with transparency. To wit: Blizzard’s Chinese Overwatch website has published lockbox probability parameters. Here’s the paraphrase of the translation:
“Each lootbox will contain 4 items, including cosmetics or game currency for direct unlocking cosmetics. Each lootbox will contain at least one item of excellent or higher quality. An epic quality item will be availabe every 5.5 lootboxes on average. A legendary quality item will be availabe every 13.5 lootboxes on average.”
Since it’s leak week, here’s an Overwatch one for you, unconfirmed:
Click to reveal spoiler/leak
According to SegmentNext
, a 4chan user who claims to be a Blizzard artist says that Doomfist will roll out much sooner than anticipated and that the studio is working on two other heroes: Bria (a tiny character who locks off map chunks, now in testing) and Ivon (an older gentleman, defense-based, but not coming soon). Still other gamers are digging into game files for evidence of an event on the way soon