Note: This post is a response to an article I read on THEGG. (http://thegg.net/opinion-editorial/gamers-are-finally-starting-to-get-fed-up-with-gambling-mechanics-2017-is-the-year-of-the-loot-box/) regarding loot boxes, gambling, and the state of both multiplayer and single player games.
It seems these days a lot of people are getting up in arms regarding Loot Boxes, the “unfairness” they bring, and whether or not they are gambling. More and more games these days rely on microtransactions, further cementing the “everything as a service rather than a product” cash grab that is happening basically everywhere these days.
Yes, I consider Loot boxes a form of gambling. In a way. You are paying for something without knowing exactly what it is you’re getting….except in Overwatch, that isn’t really the case.
Overwatch has a set amount of skins, voice lines, emotes, victory poses, and highlight intros. It is a lot, sure, and it woud cost a shit ton of money if you bought loot boxes trying to get them all. In Overwatch, though, that isn’t the end of it. You can also get credits which allow you purchase said skins. They cost a lot, sure. But lets say you are shooting for the Soldier: 76 daredevil Skin. You spend $20 to get 25 or so loot boxes. You don’t receive said skin. I can almost guarantee you will end up with the 1000 credits needed to purchase that skin.
Does this solve the problem of treating loot boxes as gambling? Sort of, but it doesn’t solve the problem of spending a shit ton of cash to get a specific item that you want, to a degree.
As of this writing, the Halloween Terror event is upon us. Prior to the event, I spent my time saving my credits in the hope that I’d be able to purchase all of the skins I wanted from the previous year, and hopefully snag a couple new things as well. As I wrote before, two days in, I was good. I had everything I really wanted, and as of now, 10 days in, I pretty much have everything you can get with the exception of some voice lines and a couple of skins I don’t really care for.
Not every game is like Overwatch, though, and some have items that actually effect gameplay, which I think is a huge mistake. It is fine to have items that effect gameplay, just figure out a way that it isn’t technically gambling. They have the gold weapons for Comp play, but that just ends up feeling like a grind. A fun grind, but still a grind.
Maybe have certain items for certain achievements? They certainly did that in WoW. Get 10 rezzes in a game? Get a Mercy skin! Get 10 kills with tac visor? Soldier emote!
It isn’t perfect, but it is a start. But with microtransactions dominating games these days, does it even matter? Game companies are more lucrative than ever. I have a lot of trust and admiration for Blizzard as I always have, and I think they are doing something right in regards to their loot system.
In fact, I think the popularity of WoW is what causes all of this in the first place. The rare, epic, and legendary items. They aren’t nearly as legendary as they were in WoW (you’d maybe see one Thunderfury per server if you were lucky) but still.
Which brings me to my next point: give us something we can earn. Something truly legendary. Something that sets people really apart, and when you have it, people ooooh and aaahhh. Something that is earned(not through a grind) that you absolutely cannot buy. That was one of the coolest moments while playing WoW, seeing someone with a super rare mount, or weapon. As the years went on, they made it easier and easier to just buy the things you wanted, which I think really stinks. I get they want to please their fan base but they got it right the first time- give us stuff we need to earn.
COD: IW has something similar to their different camos, like Black Sky, which requires you to earn every other camo for every other class. That may be a little much, but its on the right track.
In the end, microtransactions are bad juju. More and more adults are playing games all the time, but kids are around too. We shouldn’t be teaching them that if you spend cash, you might get that thing that will make you super happy.