2017, for me at least, will always be remembered as the year of the Loot Box. I cant quite recall exactly when the proverbial straw broke the camels back, but something give way last year and shit hit the fan, fast. EA (as usual) took most of the industry’s lashings, because, well, it’s EA and everyone loves to hate them. What baffles me is that Loot Boxes have been around for years. Perhaps the pressure finally built to breaking point and Star Wars Battlefront II seemed like an easy target to hit at the time? Hell knows, but that’s my guess.
We saw large divides in gaming communities, we saw several outlets questioning heaps of developers about the controversy, we even saw politicians trying to earn two minutes of fame by weighing in on the discussion. By and large, it was a very active discussion across the board. So much so that most major developers releasing games in late 2017 and early 2018 felt the need to openly justify why Loot Boxes would be present in their respective titles; Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Call of Duty: WWII and Shadow of War, to name just a few.
Though again, this leads me back to my original point. Loot Boxes have been around for a long time and for the most part, no one clapped an eyelid. Now it’s worth pointing out that the controversy surrounded two topics; whether or not Loot Boxes should be considered as gambling and whether or not content should be gated specifically Loot Boxes. My opinion on the former is this. No. It shouldn’t be classed as gambling. Buying a pack of football stickers or Pokemon cards is the same concept, and kids have been doing that for decades.
I mean sure, one is a physical purchase and one is a digital purchase, but you still own what you buy, and the outcome remains identical – buy a sticker/card pack or Loot Box in the hopes of getting something you don’t already have in your collection. That’s just my opinion here. I appreciate very much that others have a different ideology on the matter. My opinion on the latter matter, however, is simple. Loot Boxes should never gate content that you cant earn in-game through natural play. Ubisoft leans on that very formula quite well.
If a developer gates content to Loot Boxes (unless the core game is free) then they’ll very rarely have my support for it. That’s my overall stance on that matter. The titular question, however, is whether or not this whole controversy has finally died down? I’m not quite sure that it has. Like I said, EA took most of the abuse when this topic was at its height. But, several other games were doing exactly the same thing at roughly exactly the same time. It’s something that never quite added up for me then, nor did it sit particularly well with me.
Still, I overlooked it and kept myself at a clean distance. The topic has died down considerably all these months later, but it’s not completely gone and it’s certainly not forgotten. EA did well to withdraw their road-map for Battlefront II and come back with something more structured. Though with that being said, it’s only going to take one Loot Box-filled heavy-hitting title to bring this subject back into the spotlight. I’ve no doubt EA will take some flak for it, probably for just existing, but that’s the fact of the matter here.
Loot Boxes are here to stay. They pull in a tremendous amount of revenue for developers and publishers alike. Seriously, they make millions from Loot Boxes. Often more so than the sales of a game itself. Would you pull that from under everyone’s feet if you were chaining that much income from the concept? I know I wouldn’t. Is it fair that younger gamers have access to these features? That’s unavoidable and if you ask me for my opinion, it’s a responsibility that sits with a child’s parent, not the owner of the game they are playing.
I’m probably setting myself up to get torched here and that’s fine. I like healthy discussions and I enjoy a mature debate. The point in all of this is that although the controversial subject has seemingly crawled under a rock, don’t expect it to stay that way. The Loot Box debate will most definitely come back for another swing when a game strikes the wrong balance in the future. That could be tomorrow, next month, next year or next gen, but it is going to happen, that’s pretty much inevitable. Let’s hope that feedback is better produced.
I think many people overlook the fact that games are much more expensive to make nowadays. Developers need to source income to make enough money back on the money they’ve invested. Whether that’s through DLC/Expansions or Loot Boxes is down to them, but they, much like us, have a responsibility to ensure that there’s a mature dialogue present. I’m sure that if the base value of a big budget game went from £50/$60 to £80/$90 to help level the income, people would soon be begging for the “option” of the alternative.
Again, this is merely my opinion and I’m but a single voice in a very large band of like-minded gamers. I don’t suspect many will agree with me, but that’s my stance. I think that so long as there’s a good balance and a structured route to provide feedback, we can all meet common ground. This debate will come back. Mark my words people. What do you think about all of it? Do you have anything you would like to add? Do you have any examples of games that do it well, or the direct opposite? Sound off in the comments.