Leaderboard: Does the ESA’s new transparent lockbox policy go far enough?

    
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Last week, just as the FTC’s video games monetization abuse investigation got underway, the ESA announced that many of the major and minor games corporations and platforms, from Sony and Microsoft to Nintendo and even “pride and accomplishment/surprise mechanic” EA, were getting on board with a new self-mandated policy to disclose the odds of drops found in lockboxes – i.e., they’re finally hopping on the transparent lockbox bandwagon. Now, this isn’t government regulation with legal teeth, and the ESA stopped short of saying it would flat-out require members to adhere to the policy. But it seems like a partial win for gamers.

Which is sort of weird because people aren’t talking all that much about it even a week later. MMO players have been dealing with gamblebox monetization abuse for a long time – hey, remember lockboxes inside of other lockboxes? – so many gamers across our industry hoped that mainstream pressure spurred on over SWBF2 would help change the landscape and the discussion around it.

I tend to agree with our commenters Ark and Ashfyn, who noted last week that disclosing the odds won’t actually stop people from being dumb about lockboxes. Humans are bad at math, bad at probability, and bad at big numbers, which is why lotteries and casinos still rake in the big bucks in spite of being “transparent” (corruption notwithstanding). Addicts know the numbers and play anyway. On the other hand, without this type of transparency, it’s impossible for anyone to hold companies accountable for fraud.

As a first step, I’ll take it. But I want to see much more done to curb abusive monetization. What do you think – does the ESA’s new transparent lockbox policy go far enough?

Leaderboard: Does the ESA's new transparent lockbox policy go far enough? (Choose three.)

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Robert Mann

Not far enough. How the games treat me, is how I treat the games. So if your game is trying to convince me to spend money on some atrocity like this, I’m going to be asking what the game is doing for me… and the usual answer is “Not anywhere near enough to justify this crap.”

Just give us a fair shake for once. That’s all you need to do. Monetization works when you offer a product for a fair price, when you put back your success into making things good for your customers and employees, and when you don’t create drama. It doesn’t work otherwise, no matter how many claims of ‘free!’ and so on are made in moments of half-truth. All that does is help games die swifter deaths… the people who are playing because it is free will be gone once the next freebie is on offer in general.

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rosieposie

This is gambling, treat it as such and bring in the coppers if need be. The industry has had multiple chances to address this in a meaningful way, and for obvious $$$$$$ reasons they will continue to waffle. It’s time to bring down the effing hammer.

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silverlock

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but your Second Life ads for the past few days seem to be promoting some sort of gambling like lottery or bingo cards.

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Arktouros

I think the industry went about as far as they’re willing to go as I’ve said in the past. This is about as much as we can expect from them. Some will remove their boxes to try to generate user good will, the majority will keep on business as usual.

Regulation will be disastrous and most likely will end up with a scenario where video games and video game purchases will end up taxed. Regulation requires enforcement. Enforcement requires resources to do the enforcing. Resources requires capital. Capital requires a source of funding. It is not a terrible leap of logic to see them introduce an excise tax on video games and purchases within games to fund that program. Companies aren’t going to eat that, they’re going to pass those taxes right onto you.

Oh, and I will absolutely laugh if that day ever comes as well. The people who cried out for government to protect them from the evil business men from trying to swindle them out of their money only to have to pay the biggest thief of them all instead.

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rosieposie

You are the John Delaney of the Lootbox Debates.

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Arktouros

Realistic and thus completely boring because I think through solutions rather than make empty, bold claims like “time to bring down the effing hammer” which is a nice soundbyte but would never actually happen?

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Robert Mann

Yeah, government is a whole ‘nother problem. Sadly, we are usually better off without their involvement if we can solve the issue at hand.

That said, there’s really no need if people just say no. Again, sadly, that is a long lost secret to the success of any more or less free market. People seem to have a big problem with saying no.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Government regulation rarely works out as people hope. These are the same people who blame gun violence on video games. You don’t want them writing laws that are dictated by the people shoving money at them.

You want the industry acting in fear of potential regulation and attempting to self regulate itself like this.

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Robert Mann

True, just sad that this is such a joke of a move.

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Utakata

I await for the results if this actually curtails issues around loot boxes…or just another blatant claim they are doing something about it to appease critics, when they are really not. So I remain Elf butt and pigtailed inconclusive (and skeptical) until I see the evidence either way from this.

…in the meantime, I have a confession to make. I stopped buying lottery tickets a long time ago, when I realized I wasn’t really winning anything from them. Cool story bro! o.O

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Schmidt.Capela

In my case, it isn’t even due to some rational realization; I just dislike randomness in rewards so much that I can’t stand even the thought of spending money on something if there’s any chance I won’t get the best possible result out of it.

(Of note: I’m not really against paying without knowing what I will get. I subscribe to the Humble Monthly, after all. What I can’t stand, instead, is when luck is involved in determining what I get; in a scheme like the Humble Monthly the games might be hidden from me, but I’m guaranteed to get the whole package at the end of the month, and luck has no influence in what I get.)

It’s also the main reason I really hate raiding. A big draw of raiding is the loot, but from the moment the loot is random, this alone is enough to make me dislike the whole thing. The moment you force me to rely on random rewards is the moment I leave your game, regardless of whether I’m paying from them or not.

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Bryan Correll

Are the elf butts locked inside transparent gambleboxes? That would be an…interesting….display item.

More seriously, while revealing the odds is a good step I can’t see the industry voluntarily making changes that will really restrict lockboxes.

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Robert Mann

Hypothetical patch notes:

New cosmetic items in the “Beautiful Booty” lockboxes releasing tomorrow:
-Yellow thong elf butts.
-Red bikini elf butts.
-Dark jeans elf butts.

You may now throw your money at us for your 0.05% chance of one of these items!

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Fervor Bliss

Yay The EULA just longer and more boring. (Does wave motion) “G0 Government” sings. Plays games paid for by the addicted, and I feel fine.

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Darthbawl

elf butts locked inside gambleboxes

NOOOOOO! This is a tragedy of international proportions!

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BalsBigBrother

I always feel like this sort of discussion is going at it the wrong way and its just trying to treat the symptoms and not the cause.

Personally I would prefer to see more invested in mental health, counselling and support groups so that people with problems can get actual real help with their core issues whatever those maybe.

That said as dug from the earth says below it is a baby step in the right direction so that is good at least.

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Robert Mann

Maybe a real solid discussion between people and business culture where both sides pay attention? That’d be some crazy level revolutionary stuff that will never happen right there.