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Thread: The War Against Lootboxes

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    Skyblade's Avatar
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    Default The War Against Lootboxes

    So, as lootboxes have become a bigger and bigger part of industry revenue (Ubisoft admitted they make more than half of their income from microtransactions), gamers have been getting less and less happy with how integrated these systems have become with AAA games.

    Star Wars Battlefront 2 features lootboxes as the primary means of progression in the game, and EA wound up pushing the envelope a little too far. After a massive backlash originating on Reddit, they've had to backtrack quite a bit.

    Initially, they reduced the credit cost of crates by 75% after the assessments that it would take 40 hours of grinding per hero. However, the community on Reddit had already expected a reduction, and had concluded that EA had priced things higher so that they could "listen to their customers" and reduce prices...while forcing people to accept the lootbox basis of progression. And the community was having none of it.

    Concerted efforts began to appeal to various higher authorities. There is a petition to get the ESRB to classify lootboxes as gambling. Notes were sent to Disney to make them aware that EA was using their IP to push gambling to children. And contact was made with the media to push the same perspective. Which earned several articles on mainstream news sites, including Fortune and Forbes.

    What's more, regulators are starting to look at the lootbox scenario. Dutch regulators and the Belgian Gaming Commission, which could have serious legal implications across the EU.

    EA has removed the ability to purchase credits to buy lootboxes as of now. But the progression system is still tied to lootboxes, and the ability to purchase them as microtransactions is due to return once they've "rebalanced" it.
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    Famine Wolf Cid's Knight Sephex's Avatar
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    While I agree something should be done about loot boxes in general, I fear government involvement to regulate the industry in any capacity will lead to a possible disaster down the line. If we give governments the okay to regulate games because of gambling issues related to having children access said features, who says they won't use the same logic to finally censor or outright prevent games with violent content from being released because, hey, a child might play a violent game like they would those crafty gambling games!

    Again, something needs to be done. I don't trust any government with things at this point.
    Last edited by Sephex; 11-17-2017 at 02:28 PM. Reason: Editing typo but not run on sentence and no question mark lol

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    But governments already regulate gambling to be honest. And trying to make the leap from regulating games that involve something worse than gambling (all of the addictive aspects of gambling with no chance of ever winning real money), to using that as justification to censor games based on content seems a stretch to me. Not saying it couldn't happen, it just seems like something that'd be a hard thing to both sell to the public and the courts when it's inevitably challenged.

    And other than government regulation, what else can be done? People can stop buying them, though that doesn't seem to be happening. And it's doubtful the people they make the most money off of in microtransactions will have the willpower to simply stop doing it. Maybe more people need to hear the terms game companies use to describe the big spenders. Because they don't see them as people who potentially have an addiction problem. They see them as whales. Something to be exploited for as much money as they can squeeze out of them. And they are constantly looking for ways to turn more people into whales. Because they don't place any value on the human being who will ultimately play the game.

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    Yossarian Lives Administrator Psychotic's Avatar
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    The rise of loot crates and microtransactions in full price games is a really poor business practise and is a factor for my dwindling interest in Triple A games. I understand why these mechanics are in free-to-play games but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The constant carving up of content for pre-order bonuses was bad enough, but to actively restrict the likes of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in a Star Wars game is absurd.

    It’s frustrating because I like the concept of a random loot box both in games and in things like blind boxes IRL and I think they have a place. For those of you who played my recent EoFF RPG, that had loot boxes and that was my ideal model. I offered every item in the boxes separately so that it would work out cheaper if you get them in a box, but if you desperately wanted something you had the option to get it. From what I saw of player behaviour, people seemed to prefer the random boxes rather than paying for specific items.

    There are even worse predatory practises looming on the horizon. I know Activision-Blizzard are the darlings of a lot of people here for games like Overwatch (which also has loot crates), but they are probably worse than EA at this point. They filed a recent patent for a game mechanic that works like this: The game notices you like using, say, sniper rifles, and it wants you to buy its premium expensive sniper rifle for real money. So it matches you up with players who not only have that sniper rifle, but are also of a much higher skill level of you. When that high skill player is done stomping you with their sweet gear, something along the lines of "xXSniperDude420Xx beat you using this super sweet mega sniper rifle. Press X to buy for $10" pops up at the end of the match. Setting people up to fail and have a miserable time with a game they already paid a significant amount of money for is just repugnant, but this and practices like it will become more and more commonplace.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephex View Post
    While I agree something should be done about loot boxes in general, I fear government involvement to regulate the industry in any capacity will lead to a possible disaster down the line.
    I agree, government intervention will severely damage the industry. But whose fault is that? The consumers who reported the issue or the multi-million dollar companies who exploited them in the pursuit of more and more profit?

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    Famine Wolf Cid's Knight Sephex's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm kind of disappointed with fans giving Overwatch a pass. True, their loot boxes are for cosmetic things, but I knew they weren't going to stop there. That is pretty shady. I'm really glad I never bought into that game.

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    According to Activision-Blizzard, they haven't implemented that system in any game.

    ...Yet.

    Though it'd be nearly impossible to tell if they had, and it also doesn't say anything about whether or not they licensed the patented idea to someone else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychotic View Post

    There are even worse predatory practises looming on the horizon. I know Activision-Blizzard are the darlings of a lot of people here for games like Overwatch (which also has loot crates), but they are probably worse than EA at this point. They filed a recent patent for a game mechanic that works like this: The game notices you like using, say, sniper rifles, and it wants you to buy its premium expensive sniper rifle for real money. So it matches you up with players who not only have that sniper rifle, but are also of a much higher skill level of you. When that high skill player is done stomping you with their sweet gear, something along the lines of "xXSniperDude420Xx beat you using this super sweet mega sniper rifle. Press X to buy for $10" pops up at the end of the match. Setting people up to fail and have a miserable time with a game they already paid a significant amount of money for is just repugnant, but this and practices like it will become more and more commonplace.
    Hmm hadn't heard about that. Is that for like destiny 2?

    Personally I have no issue with cosmetic loot boxes, I argued this in discord the past two days xD Gameplay lootboxes are what is trout to me. Paying money to look pretty is whatever, it doesn't affect gameplay. Paying money to get a better weapon that will murder people more easily, that's lame.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sephex View Post
    Yeah, I'm kind of disappointed with fans giving Overwatch a pass. True, their loot boxes are for cosmetic things, but I knew they weren't going to stop there. That is pretty shady. I'm really glad I never bought into that game.
    OW doesn't have any purchaseable weapons so it most likely doesn't reference OW. IT's probably destiny 2 as it's now on the Blizz launcher but it's not Blizz themselves. Still activision tho

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    I think it all will depend on how gambling is classified. Maybe it should be taken into account for the rating, if nothing else. If it has gambling, make it a T or equivalent rating. Put it on the back of the box, just like violence or alcohol. It's far too late to make it go away, but at least that way, it's noted, and hopefully parents or the players can make a decision about it. Does anyone remember the casino in pokemon red and blue? It's strait up gambling, albeit without the use of irl money, but it was just as addictive as any other form, and it wasn't mentioned anywhere as a warning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chibi Youkai View Post
    I think it all will depend on how gambling is classified. Maybe it should be taken into account for the rating, if nothing else. If it has gambling, make it a T or equivalent rating. Put it on the back of the box, just like violence or alcohol. It's far too late to make it go away, but at least that way, it's noted, and hopefully parents or the players can make a decision about it. Does anyone remember the casino in pokemon red and blue? It's strait up gambling, albeit without the use of irl money, but it was just as addictive as any other form, and it wasn't mentioned anywhere as a warning.
    I'd go ahead and make it rated "M". Heck, most of these games already have a "T" rating.

    Also, why do you think it's too late to make it go away?
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    Famine Wolf Cid's Knight Sephex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freya View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Psychotic View Post

    There are even worse predatory practises looming on the horizon. I know Activision-Blizzard are the darlings of a lot of people here for games like Overwatch (which also has loot crates), but they are probably worse than EA at this point. They filed a recent patent for a game mechanic that works like this: The game notices you like using, say, sniper rifles, and it wants you to buy its premium expensive sniper rifle for real money. So it matches you up with players who not only have that sniper rifle, but are also of a much higher skill level of you. When that high skill player is done stomping you with their sweet gear, something along the lines of "xXSniperDude420Xx beat you using this super sweet mega sniper rifle. Press X to buy for $10" pops up at the end of the match. Setting people up to fail and have a miserable time with a game they already paid a significant amount of money for is just repugnant, but this and practices like it will become more and more commonplace.
    Hmm hadn't heard about that. Is that for like destiny 2?

    Personally I have no issue with cosmetic loot boxes, I argued this in discord the past two days xD Gameplay lootboxes are what is trout to me. Paying money to look pretty is whatever, it doesn't affect gameplay. Paying money to get a better weapon that will murder people more easily, that's lame.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sephex View Post
    Yeah, I'm kind of disappointed with fans giving Overwatch a pass. True, their loot boxes are for cosmetic things, but I knew they weren't going to stop there. That is pretty shady. I'm really glad I never bought into that game.
    OW doesn't have any purchaseable weapons so it most likely doesn't reference OW. IT's probably destiny 2 as it's now on the Blizz launcher but it's not Blizz themselves. Still activision tho
    I'd still be very, very concerned if I played Overwatch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyblade View Post
    I'd go ahead and make it rated "M". Heck, most of these games already have a "T" rating.

    Also, why do you think it's too late to make it go away?
    I can agree with making it an M rating, since we have similar limits on age for what is considered traditional gambling. As for why I don't think it will go away is just because it's hard to put a cat back in the bag once it's let out. Unless the rules change, as much as it's morally reprehensible to use psychological gambits to part you with your money, it's still not illegal. As long as people still buy the products, unless the rules change, that sort of micro-transaction is probably here to say. The outrage on reddit is a good first step, though. And hopefully the people making the games will respond to that and adjust, but as long as there are companies that care about nothing more than the bottom line, they will always try to find a way to part people with their money.

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    Yossarian Lives Administrator Psychotic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freya View Post
    Hmm hadn't heard about that. Is that for like destiny 2?
    Probably more like Destiny 3. I should've been clearer - it's the next step after loot crates, given that loot crates themselves had pre-order bonuses, online passes and season passes as precursors.
    Quote Originally Posted by Freya View Post
    Personally I have no issue with cosmetic loot boxes, I argued this in discord the past two days xD Gameplay lootboxes are what is trout to me. Paying money to look pretty is whatever, it doesn't affect gameplay. Paying money to get a better weapon that will murder people more easily, that's lame.
    I disagree for the simple reason: Cosmetics are gameplay. I think, more than many hardcore gamers will admit, having customisation options and being able to create a unique character as part of your own identity, particularly in an online game, is fun. This is especially relevant to a game like Overwatch or Destiny where doing your thing with skins is both part of the experience itself and the game's identity. And if you enjoy both, who is to say the fun you have from getting a headshot is any more valid than the fun you have from making a cool outfit? Why should one experience be subjected to real money gambling mechanics and not the other?

    The obvious caveat to this is that the average player will spend much more time having fun with the actual fighting than with the dress up, but I would argue that there's no benefit to players to having any of the gameplay experience gated off unless they stump up the cash, regardless of how much time they spend on that particular aspect.

    You are, of course, within your rights to tell me you don't enjoy the cosmetic side of things in the slightest and that's okay. That's a two way street though, and it'd be churlish to deny that it is a big part of the experience for a lot of other people who play the game and I'd hope, regardless of your personal stance on cosmetics, you'd agree that they don't deserve to be subject to exploitative business practises. If it's a "meh, not my problem" thing then you do you, but to that I would say take note of Battlefront 2 and realise the slippery slope to performance enhancing loot boxes is very real.

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    Oh i'm a cosmetic whore when it comes to games. The random lootboxes thing on getting cosmetic stuff is fine by me cause i like EVERY character to have stuff. So I don't get salty if I get one for a different character I may not normally play. OW for example though doesn't just gate lootboxes off via cash. You get it for leveling and for playing the weekly arcade and you can get several a week just by playing the game. They just also allow you to spend real money for it.

    I would disagree with cosmetics = gameplay mechanics though. It's literally just new skins and colors. That doesn't make you have a advantage in the game over someone else. Even if you personally are like "man it's great to kill someone as a yeti!" that didn't actually give you an advantage over your opponents, it just looked cool to you. So dropping money so you can look cool is meh to me, no biggie. As cosmetic items aren't really necessary to the game outside of looking cool. But dropping money to actually have an advantage, that's what I find lame.

    It's one thing to kill someone as a yeti
    It's another to have that yeti skin give you a 50% damage boost.

    Being able to earn those cosmetic boxes in game in various ways it perfectly fine. Having an option to also buy those via real cash, what does that hurt? You're still able to get a lot of the boxes without paying a dime and it's not giving you an advantage in game outside of you feeling like it's cool that you're a yeti.

    Now I keep seeing the saying "slippery slope!" with OW as if OW started the box thing or "normalized" it. But Loot boxes and buying them was very popular before OW even came out. People forget it's only been around for a year now. Heck GTAV (2013) apparently was one of the worst offenders. I remember reading recently about whales dropping tons of money for ME3's Multiplayer (2012). Most often this is coming from EA games anyway. So they've been testing the waters on how far they can go for a while.

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    Lootboxes just seem like the end result of monetization practices that continuously pushed the envelope. Remember when we thought pre-order content or day one DLC felt bad? Those feel quite tame now.

    But it's not something that I see an easy solution.

    There won't be any self-regulation from the AAA developers themselves; they make too much money and EA's bad PR--while incredibly satisfying--will probably not significantly affect their bottom line. The ESRB raison d'etre was to protect the industry from government regulation (back when violent games were all the rage); I don't see the ERSB having an impact. I'd much rather trust Sony and Nintendo (but lol not Microsoft) to be the chief regulators here; Nintendo banning lootboxes from their console could be a perfect marketing ploy.

    Government 'gambling regulation' itself is something I'm iffy on. Here't the skinny: there's no real way for the federal government to enforce gambling. Point in case: fantasy football has been around for how many years now? States have to enforce the federal online gambling law, although federal courts adjudicate violations. Too easily I can see bigger developers (especially in the mobile market) setting up predatory legal teams to target smaller developers for their microtransactions. Some creativity might be in order here, e.g. limiting the amount of money developers can accept in the form of microtransactions (per month per costumer) to kill off the whales.

    But, without government or industry self-regulation, what is there? The most I can say is to try to change consumer norms. But even I have a hard time taking that idea seriously: as long as whales exist lootboxes will too and even if we can convince 95% of game players lootboxes are bad, if it isn't the critical few percent, does it really matter? The cynic in me says no. But also consider how Microsoft's Xbox One concept turned 180 degrees because of expected consumer response and EA isn't entirely unresponsive with Battlefront II shenanigans either.

    My general feeling is indsutry self-regulation would be great, but unlikely; consumer norms changing would be optimal, but also unlikely; government regulation might be haphazard, but what else is there?

    The situation honestly kind of sucks.

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    It will hit a point anyway.

    This is not the first mass customer rebellion against the gaming industry.

    Remember E.T. for the Atari 2600. The game itself wasn't absolutely terrible, for the time. But it was just a result of having so many shovelware games thrust out that consumers didn't care anymore. They just quit buying.

    The practice of relying on a handful of whales does somewhat isolate developers from this practice. Whales are, after all, the most dedicated of consumers, and will hang on longer than most.

    But part of the idea of the system is that whales need other players. Without a solid community of non-whales serving as content, whales get bored and stop buying.

    If the trend of driving away regular customers to get bigger and bigger returns from the whales continues, it will hit a point where there aren't enough regular customers to keep the whales coming, and that exodus will slam the pocketbook of companies like EA hard.

    That's the real reason why EA is going through hoops trying to keep people buying right now. They don't care about the lost $60 sales, because they're changing the income stream to rely on thousands from a handful of specific players, who aren't going to care about this mess. But if there's a mass player exodus, the game community won't be large enough to interest the whales, and that revenue stream will collapse.
    My friend Delzethin is currently running a GoFundMe account to pay for some extended medical troubles he's had. He's had chronic issues and lifetime troubles that have really crippled his career opportunities, and he's trying to get enough funding to get back to a stable medical situation. If you like his content, please support his GoFundMe, or even just contribute to his Patreon.

    He can really use a hand with this, and any support you can offer is appreciated.

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