LEVEL TWO: Prison Song
Loot boxes are everywhere nowadays, right? It’s like a virus that has slowly been getting stronger and spreading into a vast array of genres. What’s the cure? Why did they appear? Do any games do it right? Let’s discuss this.
Game development is expensive, developers go to school learning intense math and coding to one day craft a world they’ve dreamt of for years. Unfortunately, some ideas are too ambitious or their ideas don’t always resonate with gamers. The goal is to make as much money as possible, that’s life for most people in the world. Not all games find wild success like the Witcher 3 did and some games, despite selling well, are seen as disappointments like 2013’s Tomb Raider apparently was when it was revealed to have sold 3 million. That’s the nature of this industry.
Instead of taking a different approach, I honestly think these massive costs could be mitigated. The biggest factor, the most important aspect, when budgeting a game should be the payment of the developers. A great game will sell no matter what and a lot of money could be saved from advertising, especially in this golden area of social media. I digress, nor do I have an intricate understanding of the industry.
Where I was headed with next is that publishers want to continue to make a profit on those games and that’s where loot boxes primarily steam from. Well, that and to undercut used games but we’ll discuss that a little later. If you buy a game and then that game has content on continual sale, customers are likely to buy it if they like the game. I understand that. It would also have them hold off on selling that game. The mobile market has been doing this for years and has had tremendous success and its only natural to want to mimic it on a much grander scale. However, mobile gamers cost a fraction of what console games cost.
Loot boxes have no place in single player games. They really don’t. An era ago all these items would have been hidden unlockables but the industry, unfortunately, has really gotten away from that. There is no reason why Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War has or needs loot boxes. None whatsoever. It is a fully fleshed out single player experience and its predecessor didn’t have any either. They can spin it how they want but it’s in there to make money. The whole concept and integration has been so controversial that it came across in all the reviews of the game and there are conflicting reports on whether or not loot boxes are need for achieving the true ending and some questions have been raised on if the game was purposely made grind-y to entice people to purchase loot boxes. As far as I’m concerned, loot boxes should not be anywhere near single player experiences and the games that have them should be examined under a microscope.
Multiplayer games I have no issues with if they are done correctly. Battlefront 2 is not an example of done correctly. The mere fact that they thought it was alright to include loot boxes in the beta that housed everything is appalling. Who thought locking weapons in these paid boxes was a smart idea? It’s ridiculous and the only reason they are back peddling and fixing it in the full release is because people spoke up and cancelled preorders (mine included) and, rightly so, called them out on this customer gouging practice. They can say it’s changed and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that it is but the damage is done and relationships are built on trust. They lost my trust by thinking I would be okay paying full price for a game that has its primary content locked behind more paid loot boxes. What makes this even worse and what makes me the angriest was that I’m a huge Star Wars fan and was excited for the single player campaign. Also, I love Janina Gavankar from the Mysteries Of Laura (underrated but fantastic show).
So, do any games do loot boxes right? Actually yes. Some companies know the importance of respecting their fans, which games can healthily support loot boxes, and what content is acceptable to put in these boxes. Arguably 2016’s best multiplayer game, Overwatch, does it best. Every single item in those loot boxes can be unlocked through the normal method of simply playing the game. Also, all of it is cosmetic or emotes and none of it affects the actually game. That’s how you do it. You purchase the loot boxes because you lack the patience to unlock an item or because you want to really increase your chances of attaining a certain item. This coupled with all future content being free, seasonal events, and constant balancing is what makes this game special and what gives a game the right to be the standard.
Now, I understand not every game can make everything free and I’m not saying that they have to but does NBA 2K18 really need virtual currency? Seriously? It’s out of control and there is no balance, no standard. What hurts these companies’ justification, or attempt of, is the free to play market. Free to play games have reach a level nowadays that they often offer more content than these AAA releases. That’s not even taking the micro transactions in mind. Micro transactions are only acceptable when they do not affect the gameplay and when what’s in these boxes can be unlocked through normal means. Besides Overwatch, Uncharted 4 handles loot boxes and micro transactions fine because, once again, it’s all cosmetic items.
The third pillar of these convoluted design to keep players engaged and continuing to gain revenue is the dreaded preorder bonuses. Some games handle this really well and some games make it feel like they have purposely cut content out to make even more money. Scumbags. Dark Souls 3 gave you the original Dark Souls free on Xbox One if you preordered and GTA V gave you in game currency. These are two well done practicing because if you don’t preorder, you don’t lose anything in those games. The original Dark Souls doesn’t affect how the 3rd one plays and it was released several years earlier. In GTA V, the currency is for online multiplayer items and if you didn’t preorder you can still earn money. You get money for everything in that game and the actual content that could be considered DLC is free to everyone.
So, when is it bad? Deus Ex: Mankind Divided holds that crown. That game had a tier based preorder structure where they only unlocked based on the number of preorders and then when they did, you didn’t get everything but one item selected. Seriously? Now let’s say you wanted all of that content but didn’t want to participate in this circus of a preorder structure. Well, that was simple, preorder the collector’s edition priced at $150. Yeah, how about no.
The Witcher 3 offered no preorder DLC and made all of their additions content free to everyone who simply owned the game. That DLC ranged from cosmetic items to little side missions and they were all wonderfully constructed. Once again, not every game can do that but they also shouldn’t be allowed to get away with some DLC practices that they have gotten away with. Enter Asura’s Wrath. That game was awesome to me, I loved playing it and though at times it felt like an anime rather than a game, I enjoyed it. You know what I didn’t love? The fact that apparently the true ending was to be purchased for an additional fee. You know what else I don’t like about DLC, finished content that’s locked on the disc. Street Fighter X Tekken for example. The rumor that Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite DLC characters are done but won’t be released until every couple of months at $8 is upsetting but not surprising.
This whole thing is our fault though (yes, I’ve played a role in this as well). We strive to have everything as soon as possible and to get the most out of a game that we overlook this and play by their rules. How do I know this? If we didn’t preorder or purchase DLC, it would stop. Games used to be priced and have content to justify this cost but now it seems we purchase games and its additional content to justify publishers publishing these games. Games had unlockable difficulties, alternate endings, and content for another play through. Now? Now games have difficulty locked as preorder DLC (Metro: Last Light) and having to pay additional cost for mundane items like horse armor (Oblivion).
I’m not saying we shouldn’t preorder games, I’ll never tell someone how to spend their money. What I’m saying is that preordering a game should be something earned by that game and our act of preordering should be a reward. If a game offers nothing for preordering or something that will eventually be available for everyone and we can see the game is a full completed game, then I would preorder it. I preordered Super Mario Odyssey. These games that are littered with micro transactions we can teach them a lesson by not spending money in that game. If I go buy NBA 2K18, I won’t be getting their virtual currency. If I got For Honor, believe me I’m not going to spend the equivalent of a new console to get everything in that game. If we don’t do something, as a whole, more and more content will be cut and we’ll be charged for it. Customers need to dictate acceptable practices, not money hungry corporations.
These are just my thoughts on this whole ordeal, what do you all think? What are some preorder bonuses you think were done correctly? What are some DLC practices that disgust you?
With movies offering preorder bonuses now, we’re going to lock our articles in loot boxes. Want to see our upcoming Xenoblade 2 review? Purchase our loot box that may or may not drop that review for $1.99 or a set of 11 at $9.99… Just kidding.