MMO blogger Serrenity, whom many of you will recognize from his clever comments here on MOP too, has a compelling blog post on his personal site today diving deep into the lockbox debate. But far from merely offering another exhortation to stop buying lockboxes, he’s doing some complicated napkin math (and by napkin math, I mean python scripting) to try to understand why publishers are so fixated on selling them.
Since studios are generally not in the business of handing out detailed sales figures and drop rates, Serrenity is forced to calculate potential revenue based on publicly gathered data, which he admits upfront result in rough estimates. “This information is purely extrapolated and used for demonstrative purposes,” he warns.
Using Guild Wars 2’s wiki data on drop rates for the bank access token, he finds that the revenue from selling lockboxes vs. selling that item directly increases 14-fold – almost 1500% higher. And that’s just a minor, relatively undesirable item with a relatively high drop rate; admittedly, nobody’s going to go ham buying lockboxes just for that (we hope, anyway). Plugging rarer, desirable drops that would cost much more upfront (like weapon skins) into his formula sees the estimated revenue soar as high as 12500%. That is not a typo.
Granted, his calculations cannot take into account the fact that it’s fairly unlikely that most people would spend $1200 in lockboxes trying to get a sword, so that isn’t guaranteed money for a game at all. What we’d really need are better stats on gambling-minded whales vs. non-whales to see how much more money whales generate vs. the rest of us who nope right out of anything with a .1% drop rate. Any studios wanna pony up? Other than, you know, Star Citizen?
“It’s not hard to see that lockboxes theoretically generate orders of magnitude more revenue than direct sales,” Serrenity concludes. “From a business perspective, locking desirable items behind chance mechanics just makes good sense. But at this point, trading real money for a chance at a valuable object makes lockboxes seems a little bit more like gambling than video games.”