The Ongoing Loot Box Drama

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#26
My problem is way more the gambling part then anything else. In all the other type of DLC/incentives that you mention (except Loot Boxes), you, the consumer know what you're getting. You can make an intelligent decision as to whether whatever you are buying is really worth that amount of money. Taking away that option when it can be for stuff that would never be made otherwise seems like a lose/lose situation for everyone.

There is a significant number of games that I've played and then specifically bought DLC for it because I wanted the game company to make more money off me because I liked their product (The Talos Principle, Transistor, to name a few). It's a way for me to vote with my wallet, but in the opposite direction then that concept is usually used.
This exactly for me. I've preordered things for whatever early whatnots, but lots of that came as a result of Gamestop & other stores attempting to recoup for DLC in general sticking it to the used games industry, and trying to remain relevant with digital games becoming more and more prevalent – AND this got exacerbated by the fact that F2P mobile games were RAKING IN CASH for these shitty, simple little titles, and big games were failing studios (see: all of Japan). Mobile gaming was murdering console games financially.


You have to look at both sides of things, like Yop mentioned. Having bigger budgets, and a longer past-release life is a normal thing for games now, and many of them work on budgets to ensure that – all because these things were practices that benefitted the games studios, and helped them shrug off the difficulties of, "I'll just wait until it's on sale and buy it used" that used to completely cripple games that were just "ok" and came out at the same time as other titles, but came to be well-liked – but had very little of the cash from sales actually make it back to the devs. Release date sales used to absolutely determine games and studios' whole future, when now the lifecycle of a game is longer and more healthy for developers.

Then, when game stores got shut out of the earn shittons of cash from someone else's product, and sales were moving to be more easy to have digitally, they got the preorder-location-specific DLC as incentives. So long as those are things that are still obtainable X period of time after release – I don't care. That's a basically harmless little game. Annoying and stupid, but ultimately harmless.

I've even bought DLC that was clearly intended to be on-disc, but was removed because of greed, but that's because I desperately wanted to support everything that CC2 did with Asura's Wrath, even though Capcom seem to've fucked them with making some things DLC.


Overall, I think you can break it all down to two basic things:
• Is it extra content that's helping the developers & improving the game?
• Is it cash-grabbing & using gambling and addiction to bleed people out of money unequal to the content it provides.


Most of the time, I prefer to have some post-launch DLC, because that money goes almost entirely back to the studio that made the game. It feels a lot like the difference between buying a band's album at a store vs. buying merch from them at a concert. You know that the second one has a much more direct line of support to the people actually making the stuff you like, and less of everyone taking a cut in-between and it keeps things updated and running.

Overwatch bugs me the same way that basically all of WoW bugs me: Both of them use the same basic tactics that makes gambling successful to hook people into paying & playing. That being said, the one part I find less shitty is that they use that to provide a shitton of support and continually expanding content beyond what the initial launch gave. At least what you end up getting in the long run is FAR more than was offered at launch – especially for the fact that those games are multiplayer and require server and other post-launch maintenance. Basically, they're an example that there're things that can be unhealthy when you use things that rely on the psychology of what makes gambling work – even when it's not actual gambling.

That gets into the Free To Play, Pay To Win, and flat-out Greed aspect that just grows up from there. As studios find out that lots of cash is coming in from these things, basically a shitton of greedy-as-fuck whoevers implement those systems into EVERYTHING to try and bleed the consumers dry of whatever they possible can, and justify it by comparatively looking at the cost of games as a form of entertainment to justify that greed.



Really, it all comes down to how much you respect the developer, and how much they're showing that they respect you. That's the relationship that makes it work or fail, and Blizzard is the prime example. People LOVE Blizzard because they're very open with their audience, and they work with them, and maintain a lot of PR to ensure that they know that the money that things like Overwatch makes goes into expanding the game, and enabling the company to do things like REALLY push into E-Sports with that game.

When it comes to EA – What the fuck have they ever done aside from just suck money out of people and stuff their pockets with it? Same with mobile developers. They don't give a fuck about their players as anything other than just a revenue machine, and loot boxes represent a larger removal of player choice – because the people they predate upon drop SO much money that it eclipses people who don't want them in their games to the point that they stay there forever.



tl;dr – None of this existed about a decade ago, but came to exist when used game stores and mobile games became a huge threat to the future of AAA games, and once that started to stabilize, the greedy fucks got greedy, and now the proper backlash is happening from that.





X :neo:
 
#27
I'm glad we're all pretty much agreed that this practice is bullshit, but I know that most of us help to enable it in one small way or another.
  • Have you ever paid for cosmetic DLC?
  • Have you ever paid for story DLC that you knew, in your heart, should have been included in the game from the start?
  • Have you ever bought a loot box?
  • Have you ever bought virtual currency?
  • Have you ever pre-ordered a game just for the exclusive items?
  • Have you ever upgraded to a more expensive version of a game just for the exclusive items?
No to all. I'm a right stingebucket, and I buy all my games second hand.
 

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#28
No to all. I'm a right stingebucket, and I buy all my games second hand.
I'm genuinely curios why you do this, since then literally NONE of the money you spend on games you like ever goes to the developers who made the game if you do that, and only ever to the retailers who profit from the things other people make. Like, that's like going out of your way to ensure that none of your money goes to the band that makes the music you like, and that you ONLY ever pay every cent to a record store for every new album.

(And that's what caused all of this to start happening in the first place)



X :neo:
 

Lex

Administrator
#29
^Because it's cheaper, obviously. I get what you're trying to say with the "support the company" stuff and I even agree with your point, but the consumer-smart thing to do is exactly what Lic is doing. It's practical, it's frugal, and it's an example of a virtue I do not possess: patience. If I want to play a game badly enough I need to be playing it at launch, because a big part of the fun experience for me is sharing it with others that are also experiencing it for the first time here and elsewhere. I do also believe in supporting the developer, but if I had some patience there are some games I'd exclusively buy used to avoid doing exactly that. I sometimes get curious about trash too you see (last used game I bought was Sonic '06, lol. Sega don't need that extra 1 sale on the worst game ever made). Launch buzz <3.

That said, I buy almost all of my physical copies through Amazon at launch or after, and they're heavily discounted (even at launch titles on Amazon tend to be £10 less expensive than anywhere else including digital, I do not know why this is but I suspect it's just that Amazon can afford to do this).

As for the "games are moar expensive to make and the at-release cost hasn't increased" - that's definitely true. My copies of FFVIII and FFIX at launch in 1999/2000 cost the same as a standard copy of XV at launch in 2016. Literally penny for penny, the exact same price 16 years later - £39.99. That's nuts. Inflation alone should have shot the prices up by about £15 never mind the fact that VAT in the UK is now higher than it was then also. I for one wouldn't mind paying an extra £10 and continue to deal with at-release games that still need to be patched to high heaven to reach a standard of release achieved in a shorter timeframe twenty years earlier, but I'd much rather companies actually finished their games before releasing them where possible. And I don't think lootboxes and microtransactions that impact the end-user experience (because we are now at a stage where if you don't participate in this, your experience of the game will potentially include horrific grinding which therefore impacts your experience of the title) are an acceptable way for companies to be making back that deficit.

I think the worst thing tbh is people defending the practice (specifically referring to lootboxes). At the end of the day you can strip every "extra" shady business practice that's been tacked on to games over the last decade and INCLUDING the fact that the price of a game at release hasn't increased and the cost of development has in the past 16 years, these companies would still have disgustingly thick profit margins. There lies the issue. It is pure corporate greed, disguised as "but we have to do this", and sadly there are gamers buying that spin all over the place.

EDIT: I just want to say how I'm aware that this post could read as contradictory, so I wanted to add that while I'm aware profit margins would be down vs. historical profit margin data on games sold at a launch price with no planned paid extras, profit margins would still be huge. I can see the argument "but that means game development is less attractive and would result in less games" and strangely, I'm OK with that. If the industry moves from insanely profitable to just extremely profitable, you'd have less companies trying to cash in and more developers who are actually passionately trying to make games. As with most things, quality over quantity.
 
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#30
There are also more moving parts than just just development cost and sale price. Games also sell way more copies than they did in the 90s. And digital distribution has greatly lowered the cost of distribution, especially when they sell it through their own store front like Origin. As you point out, the publishers are still turning big profits, so obviously this isn't as debilitating an issue as they portray it. It's not like they're just eking by on the backs of loot boxes.
 

Geostigma

Pro Adventurer
AKA
gabe
#31
RE: game price vs development cost.

I think Jim has a good bead on this discussion. I also believe that these games (as long as they hit their sales goals) don't need MTX/Loot Box shenanigans to get their money back.

 
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Mage

Spores!
AKA
Mage
#32
Just gonna point out that way back when, SNES cartridges retailed at around £50 and the cost of producing a cartridge meant that producing a demo cartridge was financially unviable. The move to CDs came because they can be produced in bulk for pennies - that thing you've just paid £39.99 for cost little more than it did twenty years ago. The big changes in that time have been to the technology behind it, the money thrown at development and the actual market players themselves. One of the things I coveted most as a PS1 gamer was the dev console because WOW. I wanted to be one of these indy nerds making simple games in my bedroom because it wasn't unheard of then to make an indy game, get it published and have success with it. Look at the sheer breadth of companies making games for PS1 and look at it now - it's moved far more to the Nintendo way of things where there are a few publishers pulling all the strings and all that lovely indy batshit creativity has been bled dry. A great example of this is the original Tomb Raider games - Core were eventually raped bought out fairly by Eidos who produced so much fucking tat with Lara Croft's tits on it, it was unreal. If DLC had been a thing in the PS1 era you can bet your arse that Eidos would have been humping the shit out of that one.

TL;DR, DLC is borne of nothing but greed and I have no problem with buying second hand games because the cost of production for that one unit has already been paid. You don't buy a house and then buy it again down the line because someone somewhere needs the proceeds of sale to build more houses, business just doesn't work like that.

Also like Lic and Fangu, I ticked nothing on that list.

Also also, Gabe made a great point about kids being obsessed with must-have in-game tat and it reminded me of a very important minority point: people with ADHD are far more susceptible to addictive behaviours like gambling than regular kids, so if it's an issue for neurotypical kids to be gambling repeatedly to get their hands on the rare goodies, then it will be a hundred times worse for ADHD or other learning disorders of that ilk (like autism). This alone makes DLC producers responsible, they know damn well who their target audiences are and have a duty of care to make sure spikes in income from single sources are investigated and verified.


Lastly, since I'm an old fart, can you please stop using acronyms because googling WTF (irony lol) you're on about is making it harder for me to follow the points being made.
 
#33
I don't have a lot of time to play games. In 2017 I have played Dragon Quest VII and Dragon Quest VIII, mostly while I've been travelling. Since I came late to gaming I have a lot of catching up to do, and my preference is for older Japanese RPGs. I usually buy all my second hand games from this one guy in our town who runs an independent game shop. He's super nice and knowledgeable, and he always has his kids in the shop because he's the one who looks after them. So I like to support his business.
 

Flintlock

Pro Adventurer
#34
No to all. I'm a right stingebucket, and I buy all my games second hand.
I'm genuinely curios why you do this, since then literally NONE of the money you spend on games you like ever goes to the developers who made the game if you do that, and only ever to the retailers who profit from the things other people make. Like, that's like going out of your way to ensure that none of your money goes to the band that makes the music you like, and that you ONLY ever pay every cent to a record store for every new album.

(And that's what caused all of this to start happening in the first place)
The music industry is an interesting point of comparison. People have been buying music second hand waaay longer than they've been buying games second hand, for obvious reasons, and yet the music industry is still going strong.

(Before someone tells me that it's more difficult to make money from music nowadays, I'd point out that Coldplay just made over $500m from their world tour. The money is still there; it's just going to fewer people than before, much like the economy in general.)

Similarly, people still produce books, cars, clothes and furniture, despite all of those products frequently being sold second hand. I don't see why the games industry should be a special case.
 

Geostigma

Pro Adventurer
AKA
gabe
#35
No to all. I'm a right stingebucket, and I buy all my games second hand.
I'm genuinely curios why you do this, since then literally NONE of the money you spend on games you like ever goes to the developers who made the game if you do that, and only ever to the retailers who profit from the things other people make. Like, that's like going out of your way to ensure that none of your money goes to the band that makes the music you like, and that you ONLY ever pay every cent to a record store for every new album.

(And that's what caused all of this to start happening in the first place)
The music industry is an interesting point of comparison. People have been buying music second hand waaay longer than they've been buying games second hand, for obvious reasons, and yet the music industry is still going strong.

(Before someone tells me that it's more difficult to make money from music nowadays, I'd point out that Coldplay just made over $500m from their world tour. The money is still there; it's just going to fewer people than before, much like the economy in general.)

Similarly, people still produce books, cars, clothes and furniture, despite all of those products frequently being sold second hand. I don't see why the games industry should be a special case.

The music industry is actually not doing that hot though and is almost being kept alive completely through extensive touring. Musicians these days are actually touring much more than they have pre-internet specifically because they can no longer just rely on an album selling through the roof to make money.

Justin Beiber not that long ago had to stop touring after doing it for like almost 2 years straight, and the only reason he did was due to fatigue. And that's at Justin at the top of Pop Beiber (he's still the top dog in that department right?).

In that tour he did something like 140 shows in over 30 different countries and the thing is if you look at other musicians in their Tour Cycle this isn't the exception. It's the new normal.

Bands in the past used to tour extensively as well, but generally it was off the back of a new album they were promoting. A lot of bands these days are touring for the duration between albums almost completely. It's actually really rough out there to keep making money as a Musician.

Tangent aside though. I agree second hand markets are normal and should be accepted though they shouldn't be counted out when looking at how they affect a market. Ultimately I agree with X that Gamestop etc. played a strong role in the emergence of the current normal in the game industry.
 

trash panda

---m(O.O)gle---
AKA
Howl
#36
So, what are your thoughts about Loot Boxes themselves? Do you actually see them as a form of gambling? Do you not mind them being implemented within videogames? Or do you perceive them as more akin to trading cards and stickers? And what impact do you think this could have on gaming as a whole? Could we see developers trying to charge European gamers a higher base game price? Steeper microtransactions? ....
Loot boxes are a form of gambling...but it goes beyond gambling in some cases.

Mr. Howl's been playing Madden pretty much since its inception almost 30 years ago. Since the implementation of loot boxes in MUT (it actually started in Madden 10), people have been willingly gambling their money away on player packs. That's the problem. People are willing to throw their money away. In the case of MUT, the cheapest player packs are around $1.50 (nowadays) and guarantee you one gold player - the rest of the cards obtained in a cheap pack are garbage.

But here's why it's more than just a gamble. Here's why it's actually robbery. The Equalizer (and / or stat caps).

The MUT community has been complaining to EA for many years about the dreaded equalizer. If you've played Madden for as long as it's been played in this house, it would be hard to convince you that there is no such thing as an equalizer. What it means is that in order to ensure a positive user experience for n00bs, people who start up the game for the first time ever and have an absolute garbage team have a fighting chance in-game against people who have been building their player decks for an entire year. Yeah, people with bronze players can win in-game against people who have invested actual money (not pretend money, but the real stuff that buys groceries and pays rent) opening packs plus countless hours of their lives working the auction block.

As a side note, I think that an equalizer system is fair (in theory, for people like me who can't invest every spare second in gaming), but it's being implemented in the wrong way. There should be player tiers that put you in matches against people your own level - it shouldn't be forced on people who have spent an entire year and thousands of dollars grinding.

Rex Dickson (a creative director at EA) actually admits that there are threshold / stat caps here. So for the MUT community this is basically EA saying "yeah we're stealing your money" in different words of course. It means that if you obtain or create (via golden tickets) players with stats over (let's say 100), it only makes a difference on the auction block because in-game, there is a stat cap or threshold for certain stats. So basically if you spend a thousand dollars opening packs, working the auction block, and building an "ultimate team", you can be in-game-rich (in theory, as a salesman) but when you actually put your team on the field to play, you know, the game you purchased, your player stats are meaningless and you wasted a lot of time and actual rent money for nothing. I.e. stealing.

Why it's okay - because gaming communities don't care. The MUT community has been ninnying for a long time but they don't step up and make a big enough stink or file a class action lawsuit. Probably because Madden is the football game. There are no others. And people don't have all their ducks in a row. Some gaming communities are civil enough to put their feet down and take a stance but others are, well...toxic cesspools. Amirite?
 

Geostigma

Pro Adventurer
AKA
gabe
#37
^This is a good video on the history of EA and Loot boxes, interestingly enough it covers the origins of the system you are talking about Howl. Also I really like it since it helps dispel the notion Jim started implying Overwatch is ground zero for this and most at blame :monster:




edit :

It also covers development costs for games at EA. Apparently they have been spending less and less every year on games since 2009. Who knew :monster:
 
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Flintlock

Pro Adventurer
#38
That video. Excellent long-form journalism, well researched and with historical context. No surprise that it took a couple of weeks to make and release.

I seriously hope the conclusion in the last few minutes is right and that the loot box model will soon be on its way out. We'll see.
 

Blade

That Man
AKA
Darkside-Ky/Mimeblade
#39
Gacha is, as far as a I know, a major fad in Japanese games, especially cellphone.

Even my local fighting game series Guilty Gear has "Fishing" to unlock content in the game, though it's all inside the game, it's still randomized and requires plenty of grinding.

I'm just glad it doesn't involve micro transactions.
 
AKA
The Engineer
#40
That video does a good job of pointing out the differences between lootbox systems. And I didn't realize that EA has so few IPs compared to a lot of other game companies.
 

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#44
That's a little clickbaity. They didn't do Cosmetic Items, because they wanted to keep with the canon look of everything &#8212; which makes sense, but only if you're INCREDIBLY dense and think that white and pink Vader was actually something that is a real counter-argument.

Battle Damage, and different outfits exist for characters in Universe, so it's a REALLY lame ass excuse &#8212; especially when it comes to your average troops.




X :neo:
 

Cthulhu

Administrator
AKA
Yop
#45
Yeah I mean for Darth you could go with Young!Anakin, teen!anakin, evil!anakin, legless burning!anakin floating by angry force powers, regular Darth, and half-dead harmonicamouth Darth. And pink Darth because he does whatever the fuck he pleases.
 

Mage

Spores!
AKA
Mage
#46
I'm wondering if their license is in danger. Probably not but the worry of it could well be enough. That comment about never having enough time or money is my life in a nutshell, but I'm buggered sideways if I'm gonna pay for an advantage I can earn in-game.
 

X-SOLDIER

Harbinger O Great Justice
AKA
X
#47
I'm wondering if their license is in danger. Probably not but the worry of it could well be enough. That comment about never having enough time or money is my life in a nutshell, but I'm buggered sideways if I'm gonna pay for an advantage I can earn in-game.
I've heard rumblings on the rumor mill that it might be.




X :neo:
 

Lex

Administrator
#48
To be honest it depends entirely on how much the brand image is valued. Regardless of the lootbox shitfest Battlefront II is, it will still sell tens of millions and make a colossal profit.

But if I were Disney, I wouldn't want that damage to the brand. I'd be happy to see it fall out of EA's hands, but which publishing powerhouse is left? Activision? Just as bad. Ubisoft? Also terrible. I rail against it with all my might, but this is the climate we live in. That said, if they do lose the license they might choose the game rights carefully next time rather than just go with the highest bidder.
 
AKA
The Engineer
#49
The reason why BFII:SW currently doesn't have micro-translations is because Disney doesn't like the connection between Star Wars = Gambling that is being pointed out by... anyone who knows what a loot box is. I would not be surprised if they got tighter with what type of paying models game companies can use with the Star Wars IP in the future.
 

Geostigma

Pro Adventurer
AKA
gabe
#50
but which publishing powerhouse is left? Activision? Just as bad. Ubisoft? Also terrible
The Witcher team seems pretty trust worthy. Albeit probably have their hands incredibly full with their new CyberPunk game.

I know you counted out Activision, but given how separate the two entities are under the Activision Blizzard parent company are, I wouldn't have trouble trusting Blizzard having a license to the IP.

Blizzard writing tends to be incredibly tropey (many corruption and redemption arcs) and Star Wars has always been a trope gold mine. I think it would be kind of a nice fit.

To expand on the separateness of Blizzard and Activision what I mean is there is often a misnomer that people have thinking Blizzard is an equal partner in "Activision Blizzard".

Back in the 90's due fraud and other shenanigans Vivendi was able to buy out Blizzards parent company and acquire them.


Fast forward to the the mid 2000's WoW is the most popular game in the world and Blizzard has strong branding in their developer name, client and games. Vivendi sought to buy Activision and make a mega brand of sorts and in doing so decided to use Blizzards name in the branding due to how incredibly popular Blizzard was at the time.

This action did not make Blizzard a partner in the merger. A few years later the Activision half of the company bought out Vivendi's shares with a combination of Activisions money and then Activision CEO's money from a side company.

At this point Vivendi is basically out with a very minor share of like 12% and the Activision half of the company then had full control of the Activision Blizzard parent company and maintained the branding due it still being rather strong.

Sorry for the tangent I just kept seeing Blizzard get lumped in with Activision shenanigans over the last few days as new loot box stuff gets brought up and it's just kind of lame because for the most part since the merger Blizzard just has been doing it's own thing regardless of Activision and the circumstances of the buy outs left them stuck with their branding to take an equal hit when people don't know the history of the mergers.

All in all I think it would have been neat if Disney casted a wide net and pulled a Games Workshop (Warhammer) and just let a lot of companies license the property. It would create competition and hopefully better games, yeah some would be duds but fuck me have all the EA SW games been duds anyway so no big loss there.




Anyway EA seems to be doubling down on the SW:BF2 formula in the UFC game


"Every single technique, ability, fighter, and stat roll, is entirely acquired and upgraded through the loot box system.
A base level jab will do minimal damage to online opponents, however a fighter that purchases a loot box and acquires a five-star rarity level jab, will not only have a more efficient and powerful technique in combat, but will also be treated to a host of stat increases in all regards, making their player undeniably better in every scenario.
"
 
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