Loot box gambling the controversy continues

The loot box gambling issue has been big news ever since EA launched its flagship Star Wars title.  The title in question being Star Wars Battlefront 2.  Although loot boxes have been in games for many years now the escalation seen in the use of these types of systems are growing.

Loot boxes have caused so much controversy now that politicians and the UK gambling commissions are having to issue statements on their stances on the loot boxes.

Although all loot boxes are the same in principle.  They are a box that you get from a game which can give you a new cosmetic appearance and or a character enhancement.  Maybe even in game credits, or parts to enhance your character.

How loot boxes are delivered is how you could see them as potential links to gambling.  They are as follows

  • A loot box that is given to a person after completing a challenging quest that will deliver a character enhancement. This requires the person to be invested in a game and play through the game to be able to complete the challenge.
  • A loot box that can be purchased for a price of real world money that will give you character enhancement. This requires the person to have a big enough bank account to purchase enough upgrades to get the most powerful character. A player theoretically could have the most powerful character without even having to play the game.  This then entices other gamers to purchase loot boxes to make sure they are not at a disadvantage.

As you can see one type of loot box built into games are designed to enhance loyal players of the game to a better position in the game.  The other gives enhancements to the person with the biggest wallets.

The UK gambling commission themselves have identified loot boxes as a potential risk to children and young people.  Other governments have also followed suit and for the first time ever making a large corporation back down on content and remove the ability to buy loot boxes from the game altogether.  Although they have said this is a temporary measure I cannot see a way how EA can bring this back without creating more controversy.

So has EA learned its lesson

Has this changed EA’s entire stance on loot boxes I would have to say no.  I like most people have an android phone and when purchasing my android phone, it came with the game EA Star Wars Galaxy of Hero’s.  Not a fan of mobile gaming I just left it installed on my phone.  I have however recently begun to play and you start with a few basic characters and the play is turn based.

EA Star Wars hero’s is a free game built around the concept of loot boxes.  There is no other game play than just clicking a button and sending a character into fight.  It is really a good way to kill several hours of your life.  However, to get to the good stuff in the game you need to enhance your character.  Sure, you can do this through game play, but this takes an extraordinarily long time to achieve.  You can cut this process short either by buying loot boxes with crystals, or real-world money.

Battlefront 2 single player

Crystals are so hard to get and are used for so many different things that you spend them too easily forcing you to guess what buy more crystals or cut straight to it and buy a loot box directly with money.  Remember this is on a mobile game and loot boxes cost from £9.99 to £49.99 and they are constantly changing making you want to buy them at least once a month.  There is not just one loot box there are several.  With different characters linked to each loot box.  The potential to spend £100’s of pounds a month on a mobile game is so easily done.  If EA had truly listened, then this would have been removed from all content.

You can see why they tried to implement this into their game.  Rockastar making more in microtransaction than they did in actual game sales and EA had eyed Star Ware up as being a gold mine for microtransactions.

An important note is that loot boxes in my opinion have a more sinister problem gambling.  Gambling effects only the person who is gambling.  They will make the bet and see if they win.  Many people become addicted to this through the rush of winning.  Loot boxes entices people who may not ever purchase one.  Potentially via peer pressure or by wanting to have the highest-level character for the advantages over everyone else.

The two games mentioned here are Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Star Wars Galaxy of Hero’s.  I have both the games as I purchased Star Ware Battlefront 2 on pre order and had Galaxy of Hero’s free on my phone.  I do play both games daily and have purchased crystals with real-world money and loot boxes within in game currency and see how easily you could spend potentially £1000’s. Star Wars battle front 2 however cost an already £64 for me to pre-order.

Loot Box should they be removed?

If loot boxes are to be kept in games, then they should not be linked to any form of progression unless the progression is earned.  EA lost a substantial amount of Stock value when Battle Front 2 came out and this might be just the edge required to make most game developers think twice before building a game with micro-transactions built in.

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