Do you hate Loot Boxes? I guess that’s sort of a loaded question, many saying yes, others saying no, then still some saying; Meh. Let’s dive into this dank, murky subject.
Supply drops, loot boxes, battle packs, loot crates, the names are varied but the concept is always the same. A feature that’s built into some games that randomly awards content, by the whims of a Random Number Generator (RNG). Likely never gifting the player for their skill, accomplishments, or even status, but rather their disposable income.
These features have been around for a few years now, and seem to be getting all the more prevalent. Originally seen in F2P MMO’s, and made popular by Team Fortress 2 and CS: GO, my personal first experience with them was in Gears of War Judgement. But why do Gamers hate these loot boxes? If they are so terrible, why are they still around, and making headway in many of our biggest games? And, is there any criteria to scale a good loot box system over a bad one? Let’s dive in.
Let’s start with why gamers seem to hate loot boxes. Primarily, the reason seems to be that loot boxes keep normal game content behind a paywall that wouldn’t otherwise be in a full game. Or, that they create an enormous grind to get normal items in order to entice players to buy them. It seems the concept of breaking up actual gameplay elements and sections as piecemeal to later sell as DLC is the root of the hate.
When gamers buy a game, especially at full price, we want what we paid for. We can pay for some extras sure, but $60 up front followed by several microtransactions for guns, skins, useless pets, emoticons etc does tend to get the blood boiling. Now while this practice is not unfounded, its setting it as the primary standard that’s the issue. As the title says, this is a problem of execution, not implementation.
Now before you get your panties in a bunch, hear me out…
It’s obvious Loot Boxes can, and in some cases are bad. However, some are implemented in a good way. It all just depends on the primary metric of reward vs. cost, and secondary one of the ability to unlock that content without buying them or not. More on that later though. The fact these loot boxes are so hated is a matter of convenience over complaints. In other words: If Loot boxes are so terrible, why are they still around? Well, the answer is not only simple, we all understand why; Gamers buy them.
It’s actually quite obvious. If nobody bought loot crates enough where the developers would make a profit, they would disappear. The thing is people buy them for any number of reasons. Depending on the game, its content, risk vs. reward, ability to unlock said content and so on. Some games even drop them in for to help you progress. Many times all they do is offer more loot boxes choices, but at a cost, yet they never force anyone to buy them. My point is that either people hate them but buy them anyways, or the people who bitch “the loudest” don’t seem to reach many ears.
Now that we have the obvious questions out of the way. It’s time establish a solution. I would outline certain criteria, and if a loot box matches these criteria in spades it gets a pass. If it fails to pass the test, then I have no problems throwing it to the wolves: so to speak.
I would purpose the following points as said criteria:
- The loot boxes can be earned in game at decent pace. If I play ten matches in a row working as a good teammate, or top the scoreboard, or rank up. I can get a battle pack or some tokens to exchange.
- The loot boxes must contain a variety of items.
- The loot boxes can’t withhold weapons that serve gameplay focus. (Melee weapon models are okay since shooting is generally the idea).
- Loot boxes can’t drop duplicate components without some kind of trading system added to make up for duplicates dropping.
- The loot box components can’t shift gameplay to the point of becoming top tier. Basically, if you can go from garbage to God without skill or any idea what you’re doing. That’s a no-no.
- Loot boxes should be earned through skill and progression over time in game. Not by a random assigner.
- Loot box prices can be varied for sales and for better loot. But a chance to earn all varieties through normal gameplay must be available. Don’t put all the good skins in the pay pile, and the shit in the freebies.
With that said, there’s another angle to consider as well. When this generation started, did the price of a standard game go up like almost everyone expected? The answer is no. Now try and think about this from another perspective; Do you think games cost the same to make that they did last generation? The answer to that is also no. Their cost has gone up exponentially, yet our full price epic big budget games still cost the same. So, how are developers and publishers expected to turn any profit? Usually, through the use of optional microtransactions of some sort.
Are they always implemented well? Absolutely not. However, the industry seems to be learning them quite well. With the likes of Uncharted 4, the recent Shadow of War (I don’t care how controversial they are, you’re wrong if you think they affect gameplay), and Overwatch and so on are very good examples of how to do them right. While there are also many examples on how to do them wrong. For Honor being the biggest culprit that comes to mind.
DLC is often another way to make extra money off a game, but games as a service. This too though, many have sneered at. The problem is, traditional games development, at todays cost, just isn’t as viable as it used to be. But, that’s a bigger topic for another time. The end point is that it’s a matter of implementation. Do they lock content behind a paywall, do they create an unnecessary grind to unlock the content if not behind that paywall. Are they just cosmetic items that mean nothing to actual gameplay etc and so on. The point is, they CAN be done right, and more often than not they seem to be.
That doesn’t suggest to just roll over and accept how they’re added in though, as they surely will continue to be added to our games. If they do something bad, speak up. Almost every time they have even looked remotely bad enough gamers have spoken up and developers are forced to respond. Even if they don’t cause any change in the game, or the developers make changes behind closed doors without telling us due to the feedback. It’s good to let them know when they’re doing something wrong. It can only help.
This opinion piece is written by Park Robinson and doesn’t necessarily represent those at Coin-Drop.com