The console giants including Microsoft, Sony and Xbox have collectively said no to loot boxes in console gaming. Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch will now display the probability of getting a rare item right on the loot box itself in their video games.
For the uninitiated, loot boxes are virtual treasure chests that give the player any in-game random item when opened. These treasure chests can either contain a super rare and valuable item or simply a common one. Video game companies sell these loot boxes in their games using real-world money, which kind of makes this whole transaction akin to gambling.
However, after the US government investigation and the drafting of “Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act”, the console manufacturers have decided to put an end to the gambling aspect of the loot boxes.
Loot Boxes In Console Gaming Must Display Probability Of Winning
The demographic audience of console gamers ranges from teenagers to adults, with a significant portion of children in the group. Video game companies deploy the practice of luring in children to spend their parents’ money on loot boxes, which more than often results in disasters. Children are known to empty their parents’ whole bank account in buying loot boxes to get a rare in-game item.
This hurts the consumer base of gaming consoles like Xbox One and PS4. Hence the console manufacturers themselves have taken it upon themselves to ‘resolve’ the issue of loot boxes. Remember the single quote because we will come back to that.
Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo now want the possibility of getting the valuable item displayed right then and there on the loot box itself. This will clearly inform children and other people that there is an ‘X%’ chance to get a particularly rare in-game item.
This process is being touted as the final nail in the coffin of the gambling problem that, unfortunately, many children who play videogames in 2019 suffer from. By clearly stating the chances of winning, the process of buying and opening loot boxes becomes less of a gamble. At least that’s what the console manufacturers are saying.
Console Manufacturers’ Solution Is To Prevent A Law Suit
Let’s talk about the single quote now. In my opinion, simply by making the loot boxes display the possibility of winning does not solve the problem of gambling. Instead, showing a high probability of winning a rare in-game item could encourage kids to spend the money even more confidently and rope in their parents in the process by telling them that there’s an 80% chance that they’ll get that super rare in-game item.
I fear that this movie somehow works in favor of video game companies that wish to deploy more and more loot boxes in their games. What this move does is destroy any negative argument against buying loot boxes, de-categorizes them as gambling and somehow makes them ‘fair’.
The Electronic Software Association, or ESA for short, reports that along with several console manufacturers, numerous videogame publishers like Ubisoft, EA, Warner Brothers, Activision Blizzard, and Bethesda have pledged to display odds of winning on loot boxes in their games.
Ironically, the EA, with its game Star Wars Battlefront II, is the worst offender here as it employed several pay-to-win mechanics inside the game. Other companies like Warner Brothers also included microtransaction in Shadow Of Mordor but most of them were cosmetic and none of them affected the progression of the game in any big way. Warner Brothers also removed the microtransactions sometime after the launch of the game in order to keep the game’s nemesis system intact.
Loot Boxes Are Here To Stay
Loot boxes have been rallied against by countless YouTubers and videogame journalists but they continue to dominate the game industry. According to a report, EA made a huge chunk of revenue this year from loot boxes alone.
A huge amount of EA’s revenue came from FIFA 2019 in which players bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of loot boxes. On the other hand, their latest AAA release, Anthem is a broken mess with an abandoned player base.
If console and PC gaming weren’t enough, big companies like Activision Blizzard are also moving into mobile gaming to offer free download games like Call of Duty Mobile and Diablo Immortals that are filled with loot boxes.
So no matter what we say or console manufacturers or publishers pledge to do, loot boxes are here to stay, unfortunately.