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Loot boxes and Micro-transactions

  • 09-10-2017 11:41am
    #1
    Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 23,055 Mod ✭✭✭✭Kiith


    Curious to see what people think about the current trend of having loot boxes in full prices games, as we've seen in some major releases lately (notably Shadow or War and Battlefront). Seems to be a recurring theme now, and any suggestion that they would be kept to only cosmetic has quickly been shown as untrue.

    Some examples...

    Shadow of War - single player with micro-transactions, with a huge amount of grinding required if you don't buy them, just to get the 'true' ending. Also, gives a clear advantage in the limited multiplayer mode.
    Battlefront 2 - Star cards that give a big advantage to people with certain cards (40% damage reduction compared to 100% at top rating), which take a long time to grind if you don't pay.
    Borderland 2 - One of the first that i remember was the Golden Crates in Borderlands. One of the earlier examples that i can remember in full priced games. Signle player only though, and absolutely optional though, so not too bad. My bad, these were free. I thought we had to buy them.
    Overwatch - purely cosmetic as far as i'm aware?

    Are developers/publishers justified in adding micro transactions to full priced games, given the rise in costs of development? Or are they just doing their best to rip people off?

    Personally, i don't have an issue with cosmetic loot boxes, though i do miss the days that these were unlockable by playing the game. But i'm against any sort of loot boxes, especially when they are RNG based, that provide gameplay advantages over other people. It's literally the definition of P2W.


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,407 ✭✭✭✭gimli2112


    Battlefront 2 was starting to interest me but then I saw a comment about play to win - getting early access and guns if you pay extra. That thing about damage reduction is even worse! It's turned me right off it. That's just exploiting your player base to milk as much cash as possible out of it.
    I've played BL2 and had no issue with the Golden Keys, didn't affect the gameplay but as you say that was SP only.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,409 ✭✭✭Icyseanfitz


    i am well sick of them, used to play a load of free to play mmorpg's back when i was younger and they all had p2w / pay to make easier/ cosmetic elements that i got sick of and stopped me playing them. Now all the full price AAA games are testing the waters with the exact same stuff to see if they can gouge more money out of people.

    I remember the excitement of buying a full game, knowing that all the content was included at launch. Now i know everything is cut back to the amount the devs think will go unnoticed.


  • Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Music Moderators, Regional Midlands Moderators Posts: 24,124 Mod ✭✭✭✭Angron


    Borderlands 2 did have the golden chests, but I don't think you could buy the keys for those could you? Makes that a mild and inoffensive example of it to me. Overwatch also isn't too bad, given that it's purely cosmetic. Overall though, I'm against them when they are just glorified microtransactions in full price games, and it feels like the devs/publishers are just trying to gouge people as much as possible by dangling these things in front of your face.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,870 ✭✭✭✭Generic Dreadhead


    Golden Keys were always free in BL2.
    They did impact gameplay directly, but were 100% free.
    And they were always a "set" level/tier (purple) so there was no "gambling" so in a sense they are largely irrelevant to this conversation as they were really just a box with loot in it as opposed to Loot-boxes as it's currently spoken about in a the AAA industry.


  • Registered Users Posts: 690 ✭✭✭Gingervitis


    Even in Overwatch, the cosmetic only lootboxes are to my mind, terrible.

    The analogy I use is going to a shop with lots of nice things of varying value, but all you can buy is a paper bag with 5 random things in it. If you get a duplicate, you get shop credit (but at a fraction of what item costs). You can also get shop credit in this paper bag. This is not a reasonable business model in the real world.

    At least with gambling, the reward is slightly greater, because you can cash out your chips for money, as opposed to Overwatch, where you can't trade or cash in unwanted items.
    Whatever happened to paying for a skin, and getting that skin? Evolve got pilloried for doing precisely that (granted, at inflated prices).
    Sure, you can grind a loot box every couple of hours solid playing, but good luck if you want a particular skin.

    Despite only being cosmetic, there is still a psychological factor in seeing other players have those skins and wanting them. If they're only cosmetic, why can't you just buy them outright for real money instead of grinding 25 credits at a time, at irregular intervals?

    I don't buy the "poor developers" argument. These are multi-million dollar companies (EA / WB / Blizzard) whose goal is to make profits.
    Titanfall 2 doesn't have loot crates, or season pass, or add on DLC. It only has skins that you can buy directly, as opposed to a chance to buy them.

    Rocket League left a sour taste in my mouth with its introduction of loot crates, particularly since I have gladly bought new cars outright. Now I see desirable cars that I have a very small chance of getting, even with paying money. There is a trading option, but these all serve to put extra steps between the consumer who is willing to pay, and the product itself.

    As for P2W, particularly in Shadow of War, didn't there use to be cheats in the good old days for people who "don't have enough time to experience the game properly and miss out"? The only silver lining with SoW is that it seems clumsily bolted on, and doesn't affect the game until the endgame, where the grind comes in. (grind is an over-used word; if you're enjoying the game loop, it's not a grind).

    It's a sad state of affairs that preys on people's propensity to gamble.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 11,747 ✭✭✭✭wes


    Well Battlefront 2, is a game I won't be buying at launch now. Will probably pick it up, when its cheap for the campaign, when the price drop next year.

    The loot box micro transaction stuff is really annoying. I think our best hope at this point, is a moral panic, about games getting kids addicted to gambling. While I use the term moral panic, I do think it genuine issue, in that kids shouldn't be exposed to what is gambling. IMO, any game with rng micro transaction loot boxes, should be adult only, and should be treated no different than Paddy power etc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,870 ✭✭✭✭Generic Dreadhead


    I'll genuinely make a point of ensuring if a game comes out that I morally don't agree with in terms ofLoot-Boxes/MTs but still want to play, I'll buy it privately 2nd hand via Adverts (or CEX/Gamestop at a push) to ensure the developer doesn't see any of my money. They can give over with that whole cap-in-hand sthick too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,745 ✭✭✭Grumpypants


    Gaming is the only entertainment medium where the price to consumer has come down.

    The cinema is more expensive, football matches, concerts, even a pint etc.

    I've SNES games on the shelf here with a £69.99 price tag on it. In todays money that is €120-140.

    Yet you can buy Shadow of War online brand new now for under €45 on console.

    In this time the cost to make games has gone from thousands into the tens of millions.

    So when gamers complain about paying "full price" they aren't even doing that. Then they want no season pass as "all DLC should be free", and then they don't want any micro transactions either.

    It is also hilarious to see the same people who boast about buying keys online so the dev doesnt get any money, moan about devs putting in MTX to try and break even.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,911 ✭✭✭SeantheMan


    Overwatch lootboxes are purely cosmetic.
    They cost what...10euro for 10 or something ?
    BUT...you get a free lootbox for every level up, and you can get 3 others quite quickly per week by playing in Arcade games.
    I probably come away with anywhere from 4-7 lootboxes per week.

    There is never a need to buy it unless you really want.

    Other games...I really don't like the way they go about them.
    Micro Transactions are a curse of the gaming world...and have NO PLACE in single player games and little to no place in MP either (if they are anything outside of cosmetic or if they are unobtainable without payment)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,539 ✭✭✭The Specialist


    I don't mind them as long as they are only cosmetic items or even attachments for weapons, basically nothing that would give you an edge over the competition - the likes of Battlefront II having P2W loot boxes can **** right off.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 13,802 ✭✭✭✭Potential-Monke


    There's no excuse for big developers to have P2W systems in their AAA games. It's just wrong. As some have said, cosmetic loot boxes are fine, they don't bother me. But what Shadow of War and BR2 are doing is blatant cash grabbing. It will work against them imo, as the playerbase will fall rapidly because of this, as the consumers, ie: us, are copping onto this fact and protesting with their wallets.

    Granted, it will take a lot more before we see changes, but I'm getting the general feel that more and more people are getting annoyed with it.

    There are loot boxes in the game I play the most, CoD:IW. I think they're fine. You can use actual money, or unlock via gameplay, which is what I'm doing. Granted, there are some weapon unlocks which may be unfair (dual tri-barrell Model 2187's??? Really!!!), but overall you don't need to spend money to enjoy the game.

    P2W games with loot boxes are a massive deciding factor for me now. They should never be in a SP game, or if they are, they shouldn't require a grind to get (ie: Borderlands did it right imo). Most MP games I stay away from anyway for similar reasons.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,991 ✭✭✭Stone Deaf 4evr


    I believe there's a line there somewhere, where they can be ok - Halo 5 & Rainbow 6 Siege are probably the closest I can think of where they were there, without affecting the gameplay, in that you were going to unlock them all anyway if you spent enough time at it, and you don't get duplicates.
    Gears of war 4 - they're terrible, and its not unusual to get 2 of the same card in a single pack. Also, there's so many garish and distracting camos and skins in games now that they can really detract from the look of a game - see any of the last 3 call of duty games.

    I kinda miss the old days where you unlocked camos and stuff by performing ingame feats - like 500 headshots etc. However, I do like the trend of releasing game maps to all, so that the playerbase sticks together, there used be nothing worse than having the final DLC drop and then the maps would never come up in rotations as 75% of the population didn't have the season pass.

    EDIT - I will say though - if there is a skin I want, let me just buy it outright - not a spin on an RNG machine that might give me that camo. you're much more likely to get €2 off me If I'm guaranteed to get what I want.


  • Registered Users Posts: 27,789 ✭✭✭✭TitianGerm


    SeantheMan wrote: »
    Overwatch lootboxes are purely cosmetic.
    They cost what...10euro for 10 or something ?
    BUT...you get a free lootbox for every level up, and you can get 3 others quite quickly per week by playing in Arcade games.
    I probably come away with anywhere from 4-7 lootboxes per week.

    There is never a need to buy it unless you really want.

    Other games...I really don't like the way they go about them.
    Micro Transactions are a curse of the gaming world...and have NO PLACE in single player games and little to no place in MP either (if they are anything outside of cosmetic or if they are unobtainable without payment)

    50 Lootbox for €40.

    I bought 10 boxes in over a year and a half because I wanted the Junkrat skin from last year's Halloween event.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,745 ✭✭✭Grumpypants


    What's the difference to you if someone played and got an item from a loot box earned in game, or they bought a loot box and got the item randomly?

    Some people have spare money, some have spare time. No one complains about a guy with 600 hours in a game having a better gun. But god forbid he bought it.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,539 ✭✭✭The Specialist


    What's the difference to you if someone played and got an item from a loot box earned in game, or they bought a loot box and got the item randomly?

    Some people have spare money, some have spare time. No one complains about a guy with 600 hours in a game having a better gun. But god forbid he bought it.

    Because it goes everything that makes a game competitive - the guy who spent 600 hours to get a better gun deserves to have that upper hand, allowing people with "spare" cash to completely negate that and just buy it from the off is bull****. I don't care if they have money to burn, advantage should be earned not bought.


  • Registered Users Posts: 13,407 ✭✭✭✭gimli2112


    What's the difference to you if someone played and got an item from a loot box earned in game, or they bought a loot box and got the item randomly?

    Some people have spare money, some have spare time. No one complains about a guy with 600 hours in a game having a better gun. But god forbid he bought it.

    The PvP games I play all have some form of progression but nothing that would give you a significant advantage straight off the bat. Christmas noobs get slaughtered in COD, it's a tradition like a Christmas tree. I'll bet a lot of P2W stuff is not obtainable via the grind.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,745 ✭✭✭Grumpypants


    Because it goes everything that makes a game competitive - the guy who spent 600 hours to get a better gun deserves to have that upper hand, allowing people with "spare" cash to completely negate that and just buy it from the off is bull****. I don't care if they have money to burn, advantage should be earned not bought.

    Isn't having spare time an unfair advantage so. What about the guy working and raising a family. Who only has 1-2 hours a week.


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,104 ✭✭✭✭J. Marston


    It's gambling being promoted to children/teens is what pisses me off.

    Gambling has polluted sport and now it's wormed its way into videogames too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,397 ✭✭✭✭Digital Solitude


    Gaming is the only entertainment medium where the price to consumer has come down.

    The cinema is more expensive, football matches, concerts, even a pint etc.

    I've SNES games on the shelf here with a £69.99 price tag on it. In todays money that is €120-140.

    Yet you can buy Shadow of War online brand new now for under €45 on console.

    In this time the cost to make games has gone from thousands into the tens of millions.

    So when gamers complain about paying "full price" they aren't even doing that. Then they want no season pass as "all DLC should be free", and then they don't want any micro transactions either.

    It is also hilarious to see the same people who boast about buying keys online so the dev doesnt get any money, moan about devs putting in MTX to try and break even.

    Companies decide how much to invest in games, and set their own prices.

    Look at GTAV still going for €30+ and people are happy to buy and recommend it at that price, whereas most AAAs aren't worth €10 after 18 months, never mind 4 years.

    If your game isn't good enough to sell well enough to cover its own costs, that's no ones fault but the Devs or publishers. Including MTs to try make profit your game isn't fit to make on its own is a reflection on the game.

    Look at Stardew Valley, The Binding of Issac, Fez and Minecraft. None of them had budgets of millions but were good enough to sell millions of copies and make lots and lots of money for the dev/pub.

    For bigger examples, FromSoft, R*, Firaxis, Nintendo all make huge AAA games that are top notch, hold value and don't need MTs and grind to help them recoup their investment.

    The "games cost millions to make" argument is a load of crap, games cost as much as people are willing to invest, great games will make that back through sales alone, lesser ones need crap like MTs, paywalls and P2W situations.

    I don't even mind lootboxes once their cosmetic, if it affects game play or brings about p2w then I am 100% against it.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭death1234567


    Even in Overwatch, the cosmetic only lootboxes are to my mind, terrible.
    The implementation in Overwatch is close to how it should be done IMO. All players get 1-2 nice cosmetic items free every now and then and if you want specific ones then you can pay for them. The problem in Overwatch is that they are essentially selling scratch cards where you can get lucky and get the item you want but if not you have to buy more. There should just be an individual price for each and you buy the what you want, if you want any, and if you don't it doesn't affect your playing of the game at all.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 690 ✭✭✭Gingervitis


    The implementation in Overwatch is close to how it should be done IMO. All players get 1-2 nice cosmetic items free every now and then and if you want specific ones then you can pay for them. The problem in Overwatch is that they are essentially selling scratch cards where you can get lucky and get the item you want but if not you have to buy more. There should just be an individual price for each and you buy the what you want, if you want any, and if you don't it doesn't affect your playing of the game at all.

    I feel Overwatch does loot boxes better than other games that have taken the worst aspects of it since 2016. However, all my complaints about Overwatch's loot system could be negated by allowing me to directly buy the skins myself, with real money, not with credits that I get drip fed to me. You could even leave the loot crates in, and make the individual skins more expensive than the cost of a single loot box, if you wanted to take a chance on some random cool stuff.

    People say "it doesn't bother me" and that's fine, fair play to ya. But for other people, it does bother them i.e. the "whales" who generate the most money for the big game publishers. Oh, they're stupid and weak willed, why can't they be responsible? Or, do we call it for what it is, fostering a gambling addiction? It's a scummy business practice in principle.

    Dota 2 does cosmetics the best because the game is F2P, and all the skins are easily purchasable directly.


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,747 ✭✭✭✭wes


    Oh, they're stupid and weak willed, why can't they be responsible? Or, do we call it for what it is, fostering a gambling addiction? It's a scummy business practice in principle.

    Yeah, the games industry are under the radar, with the in game gambling right now. Only a matter of time, before they attract government attention and end up regulated the same way as any other gambling.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 11,221 ✭✭✭✭m5ex9oqjawdg2i


    What's the difference to you if someone played and got an item from a loot box earned in game, or they bought a loot box and got the item randomly?

    Some people have spare money, some have spare time. No one complains about a guy with 600 hours in a game having a better gun. But god forbid he bought it.

    One is earned through playing the game, the other is "earned" with money. It makes competitive games unbalanced as those who are willing to pay, get an advantage.

    Pay 2 win is a terrible idea, from my perspective.

    Loot boxes are one part of keeping players playing. It's a lazy way to keep people interested in your game.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,745 ✭✭✭Grumpypants


    One is earned through playing the game, the other is "earned" with money. It makes competitive games unbalanced as those who are willing to pay, get an advantage.

    Pay 2 win is a terrible idea, from my perspective.

    Loot boxes are one part of keeping players playing. It's a lazy way to keep people interested in your game.

    It just makes zero difference to me if i get shot by a guy who bought it, compared to getting shot by a guy who got it through gamaplay. The end result is the same.

    One spent time, one spent money.

    You could argue the guy spending money invested far less than the guy spending time.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,405 ✭✭✭gizmo


    Companies decide how much to invest in games, and set their own prices.

    Look at GTAV still going for €30+ and people are happy to buy and recommend it at that price, whereas most AAAs aren't worth €10 after 18 months, never mind 4 years.

    If your game isn't good enough to sell well enough to cover its own costs, that's no ones fault but the Devs or publishers. Including MTs to try make profit your game isn't fit to make on its own is a reflection on the game.
    Why do you think games still have essentially the same retail price as they did back in the early 90s though? Development costs have quite obviously risen dramatically. Sales for all but the most mega of hits haven't increased to allow for it either. I mean, we have quantifiable numbers for these things, they can't be just denied.

    Do you think it may have something to do with the fact that the last time a publisher changed the retail price of a product at launch was when Activision raised the price of Modern Warfare 2 back in 2009, at the time blaming the weak pound and rising development costs, and it generated an absolute ton of bad press which they were dealing with right up to the launch of the game?

    GTA V is an odd choice to bring up in this respect too. While the sheer size and quality of the game makes it notable in itself, it's also one of the poster children for the gigantic development costs required for a such a game, the huge marketing costs required to ensure it's in front as many eyeballs as possible and as of this iteration, has seen the addition of a micro-transaction based multiplayer mode that has brought in at least half a billion dollars in additional revenue due to it's active userbase.
    Look at Stardew Valley, The Binding of Issac, Fez and Minecraft. None of them had budgets of millions but were good enough to sell millions of copies and make lots and lots of money for the dev/pub.

    For bigger examples, FromSoft, R*, Firaxis, Nintendo all make huge AAA games that are top notch, hold value and don't need MTs and grind to help them recoup their investment.

    The "games cost millions to make" argument is a load of crap, games cost as much as people are willing to invest, great games will make that back through sales alone, lesser ones need crap like MTs, paywalls and P2W situations.

    I don't even mind lootboxes once their cosmetic, if it affects game play or brings about p2w then I am 100% against it.
    Of course not all games require astronomical budgets, I assumed it was obvious that this discussion revolved around the kinds of AAA games which did? Similarly, in attempting to explain the existence of micro-transactions et al in modern games, I can't imagine anyone would argue that the 2D pixel-art based indie title built by a small team is suddenly going to require such invasive systems. The games that can attempt to justify their inclusion are the ones which feature Credits that go on for around the same length as the average blockbuster movie.

    Since there seems to be some confusion on this subject though, I guess it's important to clarify that no one in their right might should consider the budget of a title to be a primary factor in how good it is nor, and I can't emphasise this enough, does the argument in favour of micro-transactions as a means of off-setting development costs give either a publisher or a developer free reign in compromising the design of the game to allow for them.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,870 ✭✭✭✭Generic Dreadhead


    I remember SNES games being £50 in Smyths Software Zone at "launch", at least Donkey Kong was.
    Most games now are €70 for the Basic Version and €100 - €120 for the full "experience"
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,405 ✭✭✭gizmo


    I remember SNES games being £50 in Smyths Software Zone at "launch", at least Donkey Kong was.
    Most games now are €70 for the Basic Version and €100 - €120 for the full "experience"
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Lucky you, Mario Kart cost me £70 in Virgin on the Quays when I was a kid and Street Fighter II Turbo was £75 in the local Dunnes. :)

    That, however, was late 1992. If you adjust those prices for inflation that £75 would be around €153.51 today.

    Conversely, Shadow of War costs €54.99 in Smyths today for the Standard Edition.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,745 ✭✭✭Grumpypants



    Look at GTAV still going for €30+ and people are happy to buy and recommend it at that price, whereas most AAAs aren't worth €10 after 18 months, never mind 4 years.

    .

    GTA isnt €30 because it is a great game. It is €30 because it has a really active live service that people want to join. One that is completely funded by micro transactions.

    All those players get all that extra game time thanks to MTX.


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,397 ✭✭✭✭Digital Solitude


    gizmo wrote: »
    Why do you think games still have essentially the same retail price as they did back in the early 90s though? Development costs have quite obviously risen dramatically. Sales for all but the most mega of hits haven't increased to allow for it either. I mean, we have quantifiable numbers for these things, they can't be just denied.

    Do you think it may have something to do with the fact that the last time a publisher changed the retail price of a product at launch was when Activision raised the price of Modern Warfare 2 back in 2009, at the time blaming the weak pound and rising development costs, and it generated an absolute ton of bad press which they were dealing with right up to the launch of the game?

    I'm not trying to be picky here but isn't €70 EAs new standard? I don't check the stores too often but I recall seeing a good few games priced around €70 for standard editions.
    GTA V is an odd choice to bring up in this respect too. While the sheer size and quality of the game makes it notable in itself, it's also one of the poster children for the gigantic development costs required for a such a game, the huge marketing costs required to ensure it's in front as many eyeballs as possible and as of this iteration, has seen the addition of a micro-transaction based multiplayer mode that has brought in at least half a billion dollars in additional revenue due to it's active userbase.

    GTAV wasn't the best example because of the online aspect, its primarily a single player game however, which is why I chose it.

    Of course not all games require astronomical budgets, I assumed it was obvious that this discussion revolved around the kinds of AAA games which did? Similarly, in attempting to explain the existence of micro-transactions et al in modern games, I can't imagine anyone would argue that the 2D pixel-art based indie title built by a small team is suddenly going to require such invasive systems. The games that can attempt to justify their inclusion are the ones which feature Credits that go on for around the same length as the average blockbuster movie.

    Since there seems to be some confusion on this subject though, I guess it's important to clarify that no one in their right might should consider the budget of a title to be a primary factor in how good it is nor, and I can't emphasise this enough, does the argument in favour of micro-transactions as a means of off-setting development costs give either a publisher or a developer free reign in compromising the design of the game to allow for them.

    That's why I threw the few bigger companies in there too, I understand its an AAA centric discussion re:MTs, Lootboxes and the likes, they were an example against games costing millions to make, when in reality few games operate such huge budgets.

    I don't think pubs say "We can use MTs let's half-arse this", but I'm a cynic and wonder how many companies realise they've pissed away millions they won't get back on an under-par game so throw in a lootbox or MT system close to the finish to try recoup costs. Which I'm fine with once it doesn't affect gameplay, which isn't always the case.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,870 ✭✭✭✭Generic Dreadhead


    gizmo wrote: »
    Lucky you, Mario Kart cost me £70 in Virgin on the Quays when I was a kid and Street Fighter II Turbo was £75 in the local Dunnes. :)

    Maybe I'm misremembering. But my sister was like, "you can have 1 expensive game or 2 cheaper ones." So as a kid, I went with Goof Troop and Ryan Giggs soccer which were both £20 instead of DKC, thinking i was getting double the fun. Kid me was a f**king dope :o


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