Loot boxes have become more prevalent in video games. They are virtual slots machines for items in the game they are playing. The items that can be earned from the loot boxes can range from a simple boost in the experience the player earns whilst playing to new armor/weapons that may or may not give the player an advantage against the other players. These boxes can also be bought using money which can make sure that the player can obtain the item they want that will give them a great advantage against the others. These loot boxes give very crazy and unfair advantages to players in certain games, for example, Star Wars Battlefront 2 had many major characters and insane abilities that would give people who are willing to pay an insane advantage against those who don’t want to pay even more money on top of the $60 they paid for the game. An easy change which could be done to any and every game would be to  give every player an even playing ground in which everyone is able to earn every single item as long as they work hard for the specific item they want.

The problem with loot boxes is that although they are harmless on paper, they can be manipulated into having the best items locked behind the loot boxes. This creates a paywall, a blockade that prevents people from being able to get a certain item through the standard way of playing and earning loot boxes. A great example of this is Star Wars Battlefront 2, which lost a lot of its sales and suffered many lawsuits due to them having put  all of the characters in them when the game had just released. Its release was met with an insane amount of backlash as players hated the way they had to get their favorite heroes or villains. Every gamer who bought Battlefront 2 had quit it in the week after it was released. The biggest problem was that the loot a person could get is randomized and the probability to get a good item is low as there are more items of a lower rarity that are more common. In an article by Mark D. Griffiths, Is the buying of loot boxes in videogames a form of gambling or gaming?, Griffiths states, “All players hope that they can win ‘rare’ items and are often encouraged to spend more money to do so because the chances of winning such items are minimal”(Griffiths). Griffiths explains that rare items are put in loot boxes with low probabilities of appearing for a person. Loot boxes are virtual slots machines, but are rigged even more to make sure common rarity items or items that are very low strength appear more.  Shortly after Battlefront 2 was released, its developer, EA had to completely turn off loot boxes because of how negative their loot box system was received and it took them some time to fix it and completely overhaul the way players would obtain heroes. They updated the game and took every character out of the loot boxes and made sure that everyone could earn it through a progression system in which the player was rewarded for their hard work instead of paying a ton of money for a tiny chance of having the character “drop” or be earned via loot box. EA learned from the severe backlash they got from their player base as they refused to play the game and stop paying for the currency to buy loot boxes on top of the money they spent on it.

Mobile games, for example, have people pay money for the currency of the game which gives them the opportunity to get units or lives for the game they are playing. They are becoming more prominent and are starting to force people to pay more to be able to progress in the game, or even lock certain things unless you pay for them. There are certain games from Japan that are based on certain anime which give you the ability to earn currency or buy it to get the characters from the anime, which are called gacha games. They are called gachas because it’s almost like saying gotcha and they incentivize buying the currency to get the characters like buying items from a lotto machine. “[…Gacha can be played for free, however, extremely rare and/or valuable gaming items can also be obtained through monetary purchases of online gacha products.](Shibuya and Teramoto, 2015, Page 3)”( Koeder et. al). Gacha games entice people to spend money to have the opportunity to get characters which aren’t revealed to them until they spend the currency. Games like Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, have you earn their currency called Dragon stones, which you use to “summon” for new cards that come out every 2 weeks. The game give players a certain amount of stones for free for doing missions and completing quests, but once they use all of the free stones then they either have to wait for login bonuses every day or buy the stones for a price. One stone is $1, but they have bundles depending on how much you want to spend, for example 60 stones are worth $40. They entice the player with sales every once in a while which can range from spending $50 for 90 stones when a major card is released. “designed to entice the player to earn rewards quickly and further accelerate their progress in the game”( King et. al).  These gacha games make sure that people do their best to get people to pay for the currency and feel rewarded when they finally get the card they want. Although these types of games are free-to-play, those who spend money are rewarded way more and usually have everything that the people who would rather save their money don’t have. Gacha games are made to get people to pay to get all of the cards or characters they want, which is like a lotto machine with low rates. A great way to change the style that gacha games so that they don’t force people to play is to pay for the currency but they should be able to earn the cards through grinding missions and being able to earn the card without having to spend money. It would make spending less enticing and reward the player for simply playing and putting time into the game.

Many games have started to adopt the loot box system because it is a way to lock people out of earning certain items and making them want to spend to get that item. Loot boxes are completely random slots machine style systems where if a person is lucky, they can get everything they want in a few boxes whilst everyone else would probably never be able to get the specific item. Those who do not get the item they want usually end up outraged about having to either wait for a tiny chance to get the item to randomly drop, or spend a lot of their money on loot boxes to have the same tiny chance but more opportunities as they bought a ton of them. To stop this problem, the loot box system should get be taken down as it is a form of gambling although it isn’t recognized as one. In place of the loot box system, there should be a system of progression where players can earn the specific item they want by leveling up to a certain level, or completing a challenging quest that gives people the reward. Star Wars Battlefront 2 did this when they took down their loot box system, they made sure that every hero and star card was obtainable by everyone, not just those with deep pockets. With a progression system, people are more willing to stay and convince their friends to play the game too. Although loot boxes do bring in money for the developers, it hurts them as well because it marginalizes the player base as those who don’t have the money to afford to drop hundreds for just one weapon or even a skin for a specific hero. With a progression system, there would be no need to have to drop truck loads of money for a simple skin, but instead play the game and get friends to join in as well.

Gaming has been changing a lot since companies have started to jump on the loot box train, to get a lot of money out of their consumers. They put all of the important things or the strongest items in loot boxes and make people either pay or spend countless hours getting only one loot box. Loot boxes are incentives for those who feel like they have to have a certain item and are willing to spend extra on the game. People are enticed to spend more money on top of the $60 that they already spent on the game they want, and are told by the game that loot boxes are the way to get everything they want along with a bait to make them pay to get more loot boxes. Items should be able to be earned through a progression system where they are rewarded not only for the time they dedicate to the game, and for completing quests that vary in difficulty and give better rewards for how difficult the quest is. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a great example of this, they originally had a loot box system which they had to take down and make a progression system that would be beneficial for every player and get rid of the randomness that was the original loot box system. With a progression system, people will have to work hard for the item they want, which would have them spend time on playing and have their friends join in or buy the game to do the same grind.

 

Works Cited:

Griffiths, Mark D. “Is the Buying of Loot Boxes in Videogames a Form of Gambling or Gaming?”

 

http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/32496/1/PubSub9996_Griffiths.pdf

Koeder, Marco, et al. “Mobile Game Price Discrimination Effect on Users of Freemium Services– An Initial Outline of Game of Chance Elements in Japanese F2P Mobile Games.” EconStor, June 2017, www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/168503/1/Koeder-Tanaka-Sugai.pdf+.

 

King, Daniel, et al. “The Convergence of Gambling and Digital Media: Implications for Gambling in Young People.” Research Gate, Sept. 2009, www.researchgate.net/publication/26814778_The_Convergence_of_Gambling_and_Digital_Media_Implications_for_Gambling_in_Young_People?enrichId=rgreq-8662ed126b948373f3ffe8aa4ccb4378-XXX&enrichSource=Y292ZXJQYWdlOzI2ODE0Nzc4O0FTOjk5NDI5NjAwMjAyNzc4QDE0MDA3MTcyNzI5NTY%3D&el=1_x_3&_esc=publicationCoverPdf.