How video game lockboxes use psychology to manipulate you

    
199

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.”

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Kamilini Mukharji

I have been playing video game since I was 5 years old. These lock boxes are very common in every video game. I thought it was the way of attracting users by completing more rounds in short span of time. Now I have completely understood the game. Thanks a lot man. Now all Android games can be played on PC using Nox App Player.

kjempff
Reader
kjempff

If you were not aware of how ALL f2p systems (not just lockboxes) use psychology to manipulate you. then you are a gawd damn moron.
If you think you are unaffected because f2p pshychology doesn’t work on you (cause you are so special and clever), you are an idiot.
If you think building a game around f2p doesn’t have deep implications on how the game works from overall game design to every little detail, and the quality of your game experience, you are a fool.
Nothing more to say.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
kgptzac

The overall theme is not confined to F2P games. Ever wondered why shits label their cost at $59.99 instead of $60.00?

Veldan
Reader
Patreon Donor
Veldan

Lol. It’s perfectly possible to not be affected. I’m not affected myself. I never buy stuff in F2P games unless I first have reached the decision that I want to support the game because I like it. And then I make a well thought out decision and spend exactly what I want, never more. I’ve never spent a single euro / dollar because of “f2p pshychology”.

Don’t call people with more restraint than yourself an idiot, it only makes you look like one instead.

Reader
Mr_Planthead

They need to limit the amount of time gamers can spend in MMO’s. Too many people have had their lives destroyed by spending so much time in games, losing their jobs/families/homes. Game companies even have psychologists working to figure out how to get people to maximize time spent playing MMO’s. If you make a law saying no more than X amount of hours playing in games I bet there’d be a lot less people buying lockboxes because they’d feel less of a need to have whatever items it is they’re after because the MMO world would be less a part of their lives. This will take care of people addicted to gambling and people addicted to MMO’s so its a win-win situation for all of us

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Jadefox

The only way to fix lockboxes is to give the items in it a fixed maximum cost.

Here is how lockboxes should work. Every box that is opened drops a token. The token is in addition to the items in the box. Every item is assigned a token value. So if the super rare cool weapon has a value of 50 tokens. After 50 loot boxes you have enough tokens to buy the item from an npc.

If you rng is kind to you. Then you will have received the item for less that the fixed cost.

If a lockbox is $5. Then the item in my example would cost $250 maximum.

With this system Dev/Publishers/Companies can be held accountable.

JonBuck
Reader
JonBuck

That’s how the lockboxes in STO generally work. You get “lobi” whatever else you get from the RNG. There’s a store for exclusive lobi items, from pets, ground and space gear, even ships. What I’d like is to be able to unlock a ship I get through the RNG for all my characters on the account. TOR actually did that part right.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
camelotcrusade

Really good read – made it fun to get through a topic that basically reminds me I’m a gullible idiot. It’s a nice way to inoculate until I forget all that stuff again.

Reader
kimowar101

A few years ago, I was one of the loudest voices on here against the f2p movement as I saw a lot of this coming…..time and time again I was shouted down, How dare I speak ill of free, how dare I suggest someone pay for their gaming.
Its true, I lost and you guys won….you now have all your precious f2p so Grats!
If you cant beat them join them! so yesterday a bunch of us on eso had a party, we each bought 30 crown crates and cheered as we opened them……I got some cool stuff:)

Reader
Jeffery Witman

It’s not just f2p games that are doing this, though. Many of them rely heavily on lockboxes, but they’re plenty of b2p and sub games selling these things, too. They’re also some f2p games that don’t rely on robbing people blind with lockboxes.

Reader
kimowar101

No game robs someone blind, they either chose to spend money or don’t…..

Reader
jay

I would love to say the best way to fight the lockbox craze is to stop playing games that have them, but what would that leave us with? I struggle to think of a game without them. WoW is the only one I can think of.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

XIV doesn’t have them. A few upcoming games have spoken out against them (CU, and the superhero games). UO actually doesn’t have them (I assume DAOC is the same), but I don’t think that’ll last. It’s not much. So basically, you are right – abstinence-only is not really a workable solution here.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

My criteria is a bit different. I will still play games with lockboxes, as long as nothing I truly want is exclusively available from lockboxes. The moment the game puts out a lockbox whose contents could potentially tempt me into purchasing it, I will instead stop playing the game.

Caveat: I still consider lockbox items that can be traded or sold in the AH as being exclusively available through lockboxes. I will never, ever, purchase from other players any item that comes from lockboxes. Heck, I even refuse to purchase from other players with in-game gold anything that can be obtained with real money, as that would make me feel like an officially sanctioned gold farmer.

Reader
Arktouros

I take what appears to be a novel approach. I play a game and I try to have fun. That’s it. If I’m not having fun then I stop playing and go find something else fun to do.

Part of that is a game’s business model. In ArcheAge, for example, I ran into a payment wall with that RNG upgrade system requiring cash shop gamble boxes. That wasn’t fun, it was stressful. So I quit. Conversely in POE for example there’s certainly gamble boxes and they’re atrocious as most games gamble boxes but they don’t really impact my enjoyment of the game.

I don’t see why there needs to be this giant polarizing debate over the topic or justifications for or against them or anything really. If it’s fun, play it. If it’s not, do something else. It’s video games, not some eternal moral struggle over your soul.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

“this game IS war. You gotta learn that.” – Golden Leg (from the awesome comedy Shaolin Soccer)

030828_shaolinsoccer05.jpg
Reader
Cosmic Cleric

I don’t see why there needs to be this giant polarizing debate over the topic or justifications for or against them or anything really. If it’s fun, play it. If it’s not, do something else. It’s video games, not some eternal moral struggle over your soul.

I would argue there’s something more than just your own personal happiness and joy involved in this, that we have a responsibility to each other as well, and if you patronize a company that’s doing an immoral act of addicting people so they can make money, then that’s not something you should do, even if you’re enjoying yourself using the products of that company.

Reader
Arktouros

we have a responsibility to each other as well, and if you patronize a company that’s doing an immoral act of addicting people so they can make money, then that’s not something you should do, even if you’re enjoying yourself using the products of that company.

Oh boy I don’t see that fitting anywhere into my schedule.

20140630-074359-27839706.jpg
Reader
Jeffery Witman

I take what appears to be a novel approach. I play a game and I try to have fun. That’s it. If I’m not having fun then I stop playing and go find something else fun to do.

That’s a fantastic way to enjoy these games. Good on ya!

But that doesn’t have anything to do with people here examining the trend of lockboxes that is having a huge impact on the lives of people who play these games. Lots of people are finding their favorite games implementing these lockboxes are making the games no longer fun. Then they try to find a new game to enjoy, but can’t because they all have similar lock boxes. Some people have problems stopping the lockboxes and succumb to addiction like any other gambler or addict might, and the companies benefiting from that auction don’t seem to care that their revenue is coming at the cost of human misery. In fact, many are doing everything in their power to make their lockboxes as appealing as possible to potential addicts.

I don’t see anyone here forcing you to read about it, but it does interest a lot of people involved in the MMO communities.

So, take your own advice and only read the things you find fun. If you read something that’s not fun, then quit and find something fun.

Simple, right?

Reader
Arktouros

But that doesn’t have anything to do with people here examining the trend of lockboxes that is having a huge impact on the lives of people who play these games.

Sure it doesn’t because that’s not the section of my reply that dealt with lockboxes or how I deal with them.

Some people have problems stopping the lockboxes and succumb to addiction like any other gambler or addict might, and the companies benefiting from that auction don’t seem to care that their revenue is coming at the cost of human misery.

No they’re a business that recognizes that while unfortunately some people are susceptible to addiction that doesn’t mean the item in inherently addictive or bad. It’d be like expecting Sara Lee to shut down because some people are addicted to food or Jack Daniels to close because there are alcoholics.

So, take your own advice and only read the things you find fun. If you read something that’s not fun, then quit and find something fun.

I find these discussions fun as all get out because people are incapable of over stating the scenario. You read most of these comments and it’s like there’s some public epidemic rending society at it’s core. However when you ask for a few objective facts, data and numbers on the topic that we all know isn’t there the whole argument falls apart and devolves into needing to feel a sense of “social responsibility” lol…

Reader
Nathan Aldana

FF14, DDO, Warframe, the vast majority of singleplayer games in existence

Reader
Toy Clown

Last time I played ESO, and they gave out a handful of free lockboxes, I understood then the appeal they had over the playerbase. Before, I stayed away from them because I hate wasting my money. But the way they have it figured out, where you can sell the stuff back you don’t want, build up points to get what you want, combined with the ability to obtain neat and unique stuff they don’t put in the game otherwise had me gnashing my teeth.

GW2’s cash shop effected me the same way, but in a different way. They sell quality-of-life features that should come with a game on the cash shop and make them rare by rotating them in and out.

Both of these games, while I have enjoyed the content of both and spent my fair share on them, are games I’ve stopped investing in. I will be the first to admit I’m a sucker for unique fluff and anything that takes the monotony and drudgery of a game away, but I don’t have enough disposable income to indulge in that often. It’s why I will pay (albeit grudgingly) $25 for an outfit in BDO occasionally because I know what I’m paying for and I’ve accepted that choice.

I hate lockboxes because they take that all away, and I lose respect for a company that has their cash shops tied up in psychological manipulation cash-grabs.

Reader
Chosenxeno .

Chasing items in lockboxes is just silly. These things probably have all kinds of hidden counters(i.e. at 50 lockboxes you receive 1 of 5 rare items at 200 you receive 1 of 5 legendary). I’m gonna tell you Why BROWSER GAMES do the gacha thing better. In Browser Games they will sometimes have a counter that GUARANTEES you will get a shot at Myhthic or Legendary toons or items(Usually every 10 nets you a chance). These AAA companies haven’t smartened up enough to do that. That is actually how you protect yourself. You have to attach a guarantee to these systems to make them less like the gambling systems they are. Ever notice that Browser Games have never drawn the ire of gaming commissions and governments? This is why.

Reader
Arktouros

That you know of?

There’s lots of things you can do with coding :)

Reader
Chosenxeno .

I’m confused by your statement lol

Reader
Arktouros

I mean if you wanna go get the box of Aluminum Foil while we make some hats we could come up with all sorts of hidden, yet minor enough things we could add after a person spends money to make their game experience that much more enjoyable so they keep spending money. The only trick really would be making it not overt enough anyone would really notice.

The fact is that a game company could code all sorts of subtle bonuses tied to spending money in a game. For example after spending $X you get an item drop buff rate for next Y hours. The result is that player will feel more lucky for a while and have a better time with the game. How about match making and being pit against statistically worse opponents?

Ultimately, though, probably best if we stick to things we can objectively prove that’s happening than discuss all the crazy ideas that could possibly be happening.

Reader
Cosmic Cleric

Ultimately, though, probably best if we stick to things we can objectively prove that’s happening than discuss all the crazy ideas that could possibly be happening.

So, ignore things we suspect, until we have absolute proof?

Reader
Arktouros

As opposed to imaginging all the worst possible scenarios that you’ll never be able to prove or disprove as ever happening? That seems like the road to misery.

But if you really want we can go get the tin foil and theorycraft out all the sinister shit game companies could be doing? I prefer my tinfoil hats in the “swan” shape. Do you go with the standard brim design or you get fancy with it too?

Reader
Melissa McDonald

Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives, I play a little game. I assume the worst. What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do? Then I ask myself, “How well does that reason explain what they say and what they do?”.

giphy.gif
Reader
Cosmic Cleric

As opposed to imaginging all the worst possible scenarios that you’ll never be able to prove or disprove as ever happening?

1) Way too extreme on your part. There’s something in the middle. Living in a world of ignorance is not healthy either.

2) You’re assuming things can never be proven later on, which is not true.

Reader
Arktouros

Asking for objective facts and proof of something is not living in ignorance. Refusing to believe in proven facts would be ignorance.

Questioning if something exists today doesn’t preclude I would refuse to accept it tomorrow. It just means I refuse to accept as fact today something that may or may not be proven tomorrow.

Reader
Cosmic Cleric

It’s ok to ask about a thing, before you can prove a thing.

Reader
Arktouros

To which, again, I’ll be happy to don the Tinfoil Swan hat and speculate on all the crazy shit they could be doing but lets not pretend it’s anything other than tinfoil theory until we get some sort of corroborating proof or anecdotes from someone who can speak from a position of authority on the matter.

Reader
Cosmic Cleric

You are assuming tinfoil hat zone. There’s enough discussion on lockboxes and gambling and addictions by others to suggest you may be incorrect about that.

Reader
Arktouros

Actually what Chosenxeno brought up was how traditional gaming companies haven’t caught on to rewarding users more regularly to lull them into a false sense of security which is why they’ve never been investigated. I responded that at least that he knows of, as realistically for all we know games use this tactic all the time. Reality is we could speculate on this idea endlessly and come up with all sorts of possible sinister things game companies do but at the end of the day without the ability to prove anything it just comes off as tinfoil theory nonsense.

What you’re referring to has little to do with what we’re talking about and is largely a different topic entirely and is actually pretty well documented.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
thalendor

The best way to win the lockbox game? Do not play the lockbox game.