Don’t agree that lockboxes, lootboxes, and gambleboxes were the biggest story of the year? We’ve collected so many news tidbits just on that over the last few days that we’re resorting to rounding them up rather than spamming. To wit:
First, Merrill Lynch analysts have now lowered their expectations and profit estimates for EA thanks to the performance of Star Wars Battlefront 2, which the analysts believe will fall short of the 14M sales estimate by 2.5M. At least in big box stores, the game also performed relatively poorly on Black Friday.
On point: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gambling is under $1 on Steam. “Do you love opening loot crates, but hate the tedious gameplay sessions in between? Our marketing department has the game for you! Unbox random items! Get stuff, but not what you really want! Skate legal and ethical lines! Remember kids, it’s only a video game, so grab your parents’ credit card!”
Vice’s Waypoint blog has a detailed analysis of how Need for Speed: Payback’s game design is subtly and not-so-subtly centered on driving the player right back to the slot machines, literally, to the detriment of the other brilliant stuff in the game (via @JamieMadigan). “It illustrates how the goals of a development team and the goals of a publisher can collide in a way that makes the game way less than what it could’ve been,” Austin Walker writes. “It’s a reminder that whatever thing we’re complaining about now, what comes tomorrow will be – is actively being – refined. Years ago it was horse armor, then it was character skins, then it was game ‘boosts.’ […] Payback’s slot machine exists in this overall continuum of additional monetization, and could point forward to a new model. It makes me wonder what new tactics we might see deployed by big publishers in the coming years, and how those tactics will prey on those who struggle with addiction and how they will undermine the visions of development teams.”
SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen has a piece on Medium arguing that video game companies have heretofore escaped mainstream attention, but that time is coming to an end as the industry has ballooned to over $100B yearly revenue and “scrutiny” on business practices and communication will increase. “Striking the right balance between customer satisfaction and aggressive monetization is proving a stumbling block for legacy publishers like Electronic Arts,” he argues, punctuating that by pointing out EA’s stock price drop and increasing government awareness.
The UK Gambling Commission has issued its annual report, which in part examines skin-betting and how it affects underage gamers. According to the report, 11% of UK kids under 16 had admitted they’d placed bets using in-game items in an online game, nearly half knew it was possible, and 370,000 spent money on gambling in general. “The commission says cracking down on the industry is now a top priority,” writes the BBC.
Eurogamer has an interview out with the Gambling Commission’s executive director, who explains when and how the group gets involved. Critically, he notes, the commission doesn’t set the legal definition of gambling in the UK – that’s down to parliament.
“We’re a gambling regulator – we’re the Gambling Commission. The power parliament has given us is to regulate gambling. So if it doesn’t cross the line to become gambling it’s not something we can use our powers for, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a need to take action. If there’s a risk presented to children or young people then clearly it has to be dealt with. So if it’s not gambling, while it may not be us who directly addresses that risk with our powers, it doesn’t mean we can’t raise awareness of those concerns, which is what we did back with both the paper back in 2016 and what we have been doing since.”
Cheers, Ashfyn and BalsBigBrother!