Imagine paying up to £60 for a Star Wars video game, only to find that you’re not able to play as one your favourite characters.
You may have heard about ‘loot boxes’ over the past wee while. This is because over the past month or so, the internet has united against their use in video games.
It has become common practice in AAA video games for a ‘loot boxes,’ ‘packs,’ or whatever else you want to call them to be in abundance. The idea is that players pay real money for in-game boxes that contain a random assortment of in-game items. This practice began in free-to-play mobile games as a way for the developers to earn money from their product. Now, some of the largest video game studios such as Electronic Arts, Activision and Blizzard are taking part in order to get as much money as possible.
The controversy surrounding them lies in that you have no idea what you are going to get within these boxes. In some boxes you could get the best or rarest items in the game, or you could get the equivalent of nothing. It’s essentially gambling.
It has become clear that game publishers have been trying to see how far they can take these loot boxes before seeing a backlash, like a sick game of Buckaroo with gamers’ wallets. It was Electronic Arts (EA) that finally made the donkey kick. It all began when a Redditor made a post about how he had paid $80/£60 for Star Wars Battlefront II only to find that Darth Vader, Star Wars’ most famous villain, was locked.
How does one unlock Darth Vader? Why, loot boxes of course!
Players could either earn him by playing the game for 40 hours or paying money for the random chance of getting what is needed to unlock him. EA responded to the post by saying that the reason they have kept Darth Vader locked is to “provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment.” This response has since become the most down voted post ever on Reddit. It has since been worked out that at the time of launch, it could cost players up to £180 pounds to unlock Darth Vader through loot boxes.
EA suffered a huge backlash from the internet with many people, myself included, refusing to buy the game. EA have since temporarily removed micro-transactions and lowered the cost. They were too late, though. They have already lost $3 Billion in stock value and received some scathing reviews. A petition was launched to make loot boxes be legally considered gambling, and a Belgian minister has also called for loot boxes to be banned in Europe.
Gamers were never happy with loot boxes, but this is the first time that the practice has had a negative impact on a company. They introduce gambling to young audiences, and introduce pay-to-win mechanics within games. With any luck, this is the beginning of the end for loot boxes.