Gamers have changed the way they play and experience games. Usually I would say that this is a good thing, change usually benefits the consumer. Developers adapt to feedback and make adjustments to high profile games and sequels in order to make them more fun. Developers have again taken player feedback and adjusted their games. Players buy loot boxes, a lot of loot boxes; and now more games than ever have loot boxes built into their structure. Loot boxes can fuck off.
Think of all the different games that introduced loot boxes in 2017 alone. Rainbow Six: Siege added Alpha Packs. Destiny 2 created Bright Engrams. Heroes of the Storm designed Loot Chests. Middle-earth: Shadow of War has Silver, Gold, and Mithril Chests. And Star Wars: Battlefront II is planning on releasing loot Crates.
This is not an exhaustive list, and this is only games that released loot boxes in 2017. Other games with loot boxes include Overwatch, Call of Duty, Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4, FIFA, and the list goes on. In each one of these games loot boxes are both earned through gameplay and can be purchased through microtransactions.
But what is the purpose of the loot box? The loot box is designed to keep players playing a game longer. Players become invested in unlocking cool skins, emotes, weapons, gear, cars, orcs, characters, boosts, credits, anything can be locked behind a loot box. The loot box is a digital good similar to a mystery box, you might get something really awesome or you might get a ton of trash.
Gamers feel like they are always just a few matches away from getting another reward. If you put in enough time and effort you will get a crate. Play enough Destiny 2 to level up and you’ll get a Bright Engram. Developers want you to feel like your next reward is just around the corner, to keep you playing and invested within the games economy.
However, as players continue to invest time into the game, the frequency of loot box rewards decreases. Loot boxes are designed to be fun to open and give players a rush of endorphins with snazzy animations, cool effects, and fantastically catchy music.
Loot boxes themselves are not my concern. However, they often introduce game and progression systems that alter an entire game’s economy.
Leveling up in Overwatch becomes tediously slow as the developers try to manage how often you get a loot box. Destiny 2 offers a huge experience boost each week, until you unlock 3 Bright Engrams at which time the experience needed to level up becomes astronomical. I can often grab three Bright Engrams in a single play session, but not get my fourth until the much later in the week.
However, a short cut is always available through microtransactions. If you have enough cash (or credit), you can skip the long lines and be rewarded instantly. Loot boxes are designed to be some of the most rewarding experiences in the game, but also sparse and far between. Developers want you to feel like buying a few loot boxes is fun and worthwhile, because you get to skip the grind.
Loot boxes have effectively removed achievements from games. Did you finally defeat the raid boss or achieve the top score in a multiplayer game? Here’s a loot box. You might ask your friend what did you do to obtain that awesome looking gun or costume? They will probably answer “I got it as a random drop from a loot box.” This only encourages the player to keep grinding at a certain game until they get the item that they want, or encourages them to plunk down some cash for a few more chances.
Loot boxes have changed the way games are created. And changed the way gamers play them. I want to explore the world of Middle-earth, kill the strongest most kick ass orc and get the same legendary weapon that my buddies got for doing the same quest. Now in Battlefront II, the only way to unlock new weapons, Star Cards, emotes, or player skins are through the loot box system. It can’t be ignored.
Games are becoming artificially longer because of loot boxes and random rewards. Players aren’t playing games because they are necessarily fun to play, but rather because they might get a loot box soon and finally unlock that Mercy Halloween costume.
These are systems that I don’t want in my games. I don’t feel rewarded from loot boxes. I feel like I am playing a slot machine at Chuck E. Cheese, not the hero of my own making. I want to buy a video game and have access to all of the cool rewards that developers created, not be encouraged to drop more money for a chance at more loot.
The only thing I know, is if players keep buying loot boxes, developers will keep putting them in their games.
How many loot boxes have you bought? Do they bother you in games or can you resist the temptation? Will you be buying Middle-earth: Shadow of War or Star Wars: Battlefront II, even through the loot box controversy?
Something to dig your spoon in,