Perhaps more importantly, ArenaNet has redesigned (again) some of the features of the lockbox system itself, perhaps in part due to ongoing criticism of that element of the business model throughout the industry (and surely in response to backlash faced by ANet in particular last autumn). The devs are adding a “guaranteed seasonal item,” which this round appears to be a glowy minipet, plus the random drops, plus what they’re calling a “black lion statuette” currency. Collect enough currency, and you can trade that for specific items.
What items? I logged in to peek and saw everything from claim tickets and minipets to makeover kits and transmutes to really expensive items like skins and housing nodes. You can even stack them to wish for more wishes in the form of the “golden black lion chest key.” Essentially, it’s one of those better-than-lint consolation prizes that at least allow you to stack bad lockbox rolls up for something good down the road, but again they appear relatively expensive, given the cost of lockbox keys. For example, in my household, teleport-to-friend items are something we wish we could buy outright as they’re a huge help when duoing or trioing with my son, but a single one through this method would require five such currency, so five keys at a cost of 450 gems at a cost of almost $6. Six bucks for a teleport. Hmm. So probably not really intended as a new way to buy stuff, just a consolation prize as noted.
Incidentally, all B2P owners of the game and/or its expansions are getting a free lockbox and key today for checking out the cash shop, which will get you at minimum the seasonal minipet for free and of course one hit of currency so you can browse. So if you’re into free, there you go. If you’re not? Well, you be the judge on whether this counts as one of those “elegant lockbox designs” MMO devs talked about yesterday.