Lockbox roundup: MMO studios on ‘elegant’ lockboxes, legal issues, and the ‘cosmetics only’ angle

    
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You know the lockbox thing is reaching saturation when there are so many things to cover we have to resort to a roundup. Nevertheless, for those of you who want to stay on top of developments and arguments, here we go.

Polygon has an explainer piece up on Destiny 2’s Eververse fallout and why everyone is still rioting over the game’s monetization. Of note for this discussion is the publication’s note that if Destiny 2 is hell-bent on having lootboxes, it ought to adopt Overwatch’s lootboxes, as they’re relatively tame and haven’t produced a Reddit in full meltdown.

Gamasutra has a roundup of MMO developer quotes from studios that believe they’re doing lockboxes “elegantly,” including Trion (for Defiance), PWE (for Star Trek Online), Wargaming (for World of Warships). In this particularly case, that means either being easily accessible through in-game play (not just in the cash shop), making lockbox drops tradeable to other players, creating systems of accruing lockbox rewards, or offering a choice of lootbox type.

“First, allow the player to obtain everything in-game through gameplay, and offer the store as an alternate way of accomplishing that goal,” argues Trion’s Matt Pettit.

Are lootboxes gambling? YouTuber Law tackles the question. Spoiler alert: Andrew’s research into whether lockboxes legally constitute gambling from last January comes to the same conclusion.

And finally, there’s this Jim Sterling video from Saturday, in which he rants about a statement from everyone’s favorite gaming industry analyst Michael Pachter, who comments on the potential for Anthem to have lockboxes (which we do not know yet). Pachter, probably rightly, points out that EA would be wise to “limit [itself] to purely cosmetic items” to avoid the uproar Star Wars Battlefront provoked. But as Sterling points out, “just cosmetic” lockboxes are still annoying as hell, which is why people are so angry about them in Destiny 2. “Pay-to-win” isn’t the only problem with lockboxes; if you hate lockboxes, it probably doesn’t matter what you’re gambling for. In fact, this is exactly the same microtransaction fight MMORPG players have been fighting for the last decade, even before the random gambling element was introduced. Welcome, mainstreamers.

Thanks, Bryan!
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Anstalt

An elegant turd is still a turd. Even if they were 100% free, they’d still be a shit mechanic. They’re just lazy development.

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Melissa McDonald

Another good reason to give World of Warships a spin. Never paid a penny for it and have enjoyed it quite a bit. It looks amazing, gameplay is fun and varies a lot by ship type, and the sinking animations are breathtaking.
Just make sure and queue up some Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” as you watch your behemoth of iron and steel slowly slip beneath the waves quite realistically.

:) I seriously do that, and chuckle all through it. But, I am easily amused. ;)

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A Dad Supreme

RIFT would like to sell you a random mount for $100

elegant:

1. tastefully fine or luxurious in dress, style, design, etc.
2. gracefully refined and dignified, as in tastes, habits, or literary style:
3. graceful in form or movement:
4. appropriate to refined taste:
5. excellent; fine; superior:
6. (of scientific, technical, or mathematical theories, solutions, etc.) gracefully concise and simple; admirably succinct.

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Melissa McDonald

In the news today: a nasal spray that fights gambling addictions by a Finnish company.

Can’t wait for the Xbox edition, garishly painted. :)

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Bryan Correll

/em thinks that can’t possibly be a real thing.
/em uses google.
OMG that’s a real thing!

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Zen Dadaist

Trion’s lockboxes and the word “elegant” in the same sentence… *gales of laughter*

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bobfish

Whilst I don’t have an issue with loot boxes, provided they are optional, the elegant solutions in that article are all pay to win.

They are indeed introduced into the game in a way that is more balanced than you will find in a premium game, but they also all include items that will make you more powerful.

I still maintain though, that Battlefront 2’s biggest problem wasn’t the inclusion of loot boxes, but rather the way they tied them into the heart of the progression system in the game. They aren’t something of top of the game, they are a vital part of how you progress within the game, which is wrong, because it takes away any enjoyment from the progression system. Destiny 2 actually has the same issue, even if you can’t buy the loot boxes, there is no sense of accomplishment or reward when everything you receive for your efforts is completely random.

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Armsbend

Elegant diseased feces dripping out of a well worn out asshole.

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Rees Racer

Herpes may not be benevolent, but is almost never fatal. It’s usually completely cosmetic, and totally worth the risk for the excitement you might receive through the elegant (or really messy) process of obtaining it!

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cursedseishi
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Darthbawl

I would love to see (will probably be worm food before though…): *all* lockboxes having to show the chances of getting a particular item. Apple slipped that into their store rules recently I believe. I know this would kill those companies to have to do this. IMHO this would help curb a portion of the people from getting suckered, er conned, er psychologically coerced, er persuaded into buying that lockbox. Since it seems that there a GD thing that appears to be working at this point, it sounds better than nothing. And no it won’t extinguish the flames of this fire.

As for cosmetics, as Sterling has said before (and sorry if you folks don’t agree with him), they still offer a level/style of psychological manipulation that gives them the air of evil. Some people will get sucked into having to get a specific cosmetic or even all of them and will throw logic and good sense right out the door –> way. They don’t necessarily need to be railed on as much as the non-cosmetic versions but still need to be addressed.

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Stropp

Absolutely agree. Anything that requires a payment for a chance to win something should be required to disclose the chances of winning that item.

Of course there are ways to spin this too. Here in SA we have poker machines (slots) in pubs with legislated payout percentages. You’ll often see it advertised that you will get an 85% return on your money, which is just another way of saying you’ll see a 15% loss. It just sounds better, like you’re winning. And there’s no guarantee you’ll get that much. That percentage is over the lifetime of the machine, not the individual player.

It’s almost guaranteed that game devs who use gambleboxes, will spin to make it sound like a good deal, if they have to disclose the odds.

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Coolit

If it becomes law to disclose loot box odds it’s going to be interesting to see if any publisher’s have been manipulating the odds under the hood to promote more purchase’s.

wandris
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wandris

There is many good reasons gambling is regulated to casinos in particular zones. It is a destructive vice. Nothing wrong with vices for those who choose to indulge but there is a time and a place. Backdooring slot machines into people homes and preying on your customers like drug pushers is despicable. You were not invited to exploit peoples innate addictive tendencies. Never heard a single person ask for it and I doubt the majority wants it. Never forget the shit these people try to pull. How can they possibly think this is ethical or right? You can tell they have no intention of ever stopping either, they clearly intend to make this ubiquitous in all games.