Recently EA have reintroduced loot boxes into the Star Wars Battlefront 2 meta several months after having to remove them completely following a monumental and embarrassing backlash from fans, critics and even other game developers. You have to give it to EA I just don’t know any other publisher who could unite those three demographics in pure utter hatred. Warner Brothers have also followed a similar public relations move for Shadow of War and have completely removed the loot box system from the game after it was labeled a pay to win full priced game and grinders nightmare.
These games both have an infamous claim to fame being that they are the poster children for the draconian and cynical inclusion of modern loot boxes. This backlash was so severe that Disney even had high level conversations with EA about the Star Wars licence being associated with the loot box controversy.
There is one good thing that came out of these two scandals mind you and that is the genuine conversation that was started about how the gaming industry implements its loot box mechanics into the newest games. Players, developers and news outlets came together to have an honest discussion about how players feel and react when a publisher/developer is using the most underhanded tactic to make more money.
Most of all this discussion was very adult with people on all sides admitting loot boxes are here to stay and acknowledging at the end of the day the publisher is in it to make money and on the other side publishers realised that there really is a point that players will hit back at you no matter what IP your working with.
At points during this controversy politicians even got involved from America, Britain, mainland Europe and Australia stating that loot boxes are essentially gambling and should be banned or much more heavily regulated by a government rather than a gaming body. These arguments were quickly shot down and considering many of these politicians have never picked up a gaming controller this was a very good thing indeed, instead the gaming industry stated no this is an internal issue and we will handle it.
Now all this is still influx about how these loot boxes will be kept in check, so to speak, with one thing happening is every single game with a loot box mechanic will have to be clearly marked on the games box in a retailer and clearly stated on a digital purchase page before sale. It’s a step in the right direction atleast.
That’s the steps regulatory bodies and other sorts of oversight bodies have taken to protect consumers but to be quite honest this is nothing compared to the affect that the public outcry will have on the future games or games still in development.
Im sure before all of this happened publishers were licking their lips at what to them was the golden age of loot boxes with the predatory micro transactions successfully making the jump from casual mobile games to the big triple A titles released on the next generation consoles. These micro transactions turned games that admittedly cost millions to make into an ongoing cash cow which obviously lead to games then being designed around the encouragement of using loot boxes to get ahead rather than general gameplay.
As a player these sorts of games and practices made no sense from EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 requiring 40 hours to unlock each hero character without microtransaction purchases(after paying £40 for the base game as well), then again EA’s new Need for Speed Payback, a game I was really looking forward to ill add, was injected with a car modding loot system in order to maximise loot box purchases. Seriously a loot box system for car modifications…… pathetic.
Ofcourse EA was the worst offender, like that’s a surprise but they soon found you can only push a consumer so far before they hit back. Battlefront 2 had to suspend its loot box inclusion completely and Battlefront 2 performed terribly missing EA’s projected sales target by 1 million copies in its first three months according to the Wall Street Journal.
This is all in the past ofcourse and its well known of the embarrassment that EA and others suffered due to the public outcry but what I want to discuss is how all this may possibly affect future games and other publishers that amy want to implement a loot box mechanic into their games.
EA has now activated its loot boxes into Battlefront 2 but they are cosmetic only and in my opinion that’s the only real way to have these sorts of mechanics added to a full priced game. Gamers are not stupid and we will not put up with publishers who simply want to treat us as cash cows. Yes we would expect these sorts of practices in a free to play game and maybe even a multiplayer only cut price title….to a certain extent but a full priced triple A game, especially one based on an IP like Star Wars we just won’t take it anymore.
Publishers and developers now know just how far they can push players now and i’m sure many in development games and even some in the concept stage will be changing just how they will be implementing certain micro transactions for their release. Having some indie game development experience myself i’d certainly be looking at the fallout of this when launching a game.
And its not just the players that developers and publishers have to fear now. We came stupidly close to having laws put in place at a government level to police these sorts of predatory practices so no publisher in their right mind is going to want to come close to having that implemented. Say what you like about the gaming community as a whole we deal with our shit inhouse and nobody from publisher down to the player wants any sort of government intrusion into our slice of entertainment.
These are just a few reasons as to why loot boxes in the future will be much different to what we see right now. Will they still be predatory, yes probably at the end of the day its a system that allows publishers to milk the game for as much money as possible but will they be on the same level, I highly doubt it. The backlash is simply to destructive now.
Loot boxes for better or worse are here to stay and the only way I believe they can be fairly implemented is if they are for non essential cosmetic items only, in full priced games anyway.
Will we see these practices change permanently or do you think the publishers will continue to push players in order to make a profit? Let me know in the comments below.