Let’s end loot boxes

Gaming industry must cleanse itself of gambling in full-priced games

By Christian Hollis Managing Editor

For the past few years, major video game publishers like Activision and Electronic Arts (EA) have implemented a new way to increase profits in video games called microtransactions.
Microtransactions come in many shapes and colors, but most of the time they are used in the form of loot boxes.
There are many different names for loot boxes. EA’s “Battlefield” calls them “Battlepacks,” Microsoft’s “Halo” calls them “REQ Packs,” Activision’s “Call of Duty” calls them “Supply Drops,” but they all serve the same purpose—
random packs full of varying items. These are used to cover costs in game development while keeping the regular price for games at $60, but loot boxes have been getting pushed back against by consumers.
The most recent and possibly the biggest occurrence of this push back was against EA’s “Star Wars Battlefront II.” Indeed, “Star Wars Battlefront II” has an entire progression system in its multiplayer based around crates.
Crates can be earned by purchasing with credits awarded by game completion or by using real-world money to buy crystals which can also unlock crates. The crates seen in “Star Wars Battlefront II” are filled with random items that can be considered useful or completely worthless based on the player.
For example, in one crate a player could get items that are only cosmetic, while another player can get a pack of star-cards to give them a gameplay advantage over others. These aren’t rewarding, it is a game of chance, or in one word, gambling.
Due to major backlash from gamers and a drop-in stock value of $3.1 billion, EA has temporarily disabled the ability to purchase crystals in “Star Wars Battlefront II” to buy crates, but gamers aren’t stopping there. Recently a representative from the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB) told major gaming site IGN.com the board’s view of loot boxes. “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want),” said the unnamed representative.
Gamers were furious by this and quickly turned to change.com and created a petition to make the ESRB declare loot boxes as gambling.
Petitioners argue against the ESRB by using the definition of gambling given by Dictionary.com, “to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance.” The petition already has 82,000
supporters with a goal of 150,000.
There is a right way to integrate microtransactions into games that are rewarding for both the player and developers. For example, Respawn’s “TitanFall 2” contains cosmetic packs with weapon skins, varying colored armor and unique designs on mechs all at $4.99 at the in-game store. In this system, players know exactly what they’re going to get.
If all developers and publishers used this model, profits could be increased without losing their reputation, because players won’t be afraid of losing their money to chance.