Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Or Maybe The Year of Lootboxes

GamesBeat Decides, a podcast from The Verge, also reviewed some of the top gaming trends in 2016 and gave the unofficial trophy to Lootboxes. Yep. Those digital packets of content that give you weapons, stickers, paint sprays, coins, and new clothes for your computer generated avatar. With the increase of popularity for FPS and online gaming this year, looking at you Overwatch, the lootbox was the go-to for must-have loot. Sometimes you earn them by leveling up or completing daily tasks. Or you can outright buy them for a chance to win that Mei skin you always wanted.

China has even introduced a new law regarding the practice of selling lootboxes. It will go into effect starting March 1, 2017, and require game developers to provide more accurate statistics on what is included in each box - in some cases they need to outright say "this is what you are getting."

The thing with lootboxes is that the contents are random. Much like a grab bag where you don't know what's inside until you pay and open it up. The digital items you receive will vary, with voice taunts, sprays, and player icons appearing more often then weapons and skins. Typically the boxes are set up in a tiered system where you can get a 1-10% chance on the rare items, with 50-70% on the common drops.

The folly of this system is that lootboxes can be addictive. If you really want that Mei skin, you're going to work hard to get one. Even if it requires you to reach level 50. Or you are going to spend the money for it. And with the boxes ranging from $2.99 to $29.99, that's a lot of extra cash going back to the publisher. This isn't restricted for online FPS games. Assassin's Creed has utilized this system in it's recent games, as well as mobile products like Pokémon Go. You can get a variety of tools and items by dropping a few dollars on the mystery crate.

Lootboxes are everywhere. And gamers are now accustomed to it. Maybe this was their year to shine.

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