Monday, November 13, 2017

Well...at Least One Dev Gets Why We Hate Paying for Loot Boxes

Randy Pitchford, the divisive leader of Gearbox Software, opened up on Twitter his stance regarding Loot Boxes - specifically the ones that we pay for to get an edge in a game. For those who are not Randy fans, his response may help you feel that there is still some sanity left in the gaming industry.

Here are a few snippets of his Twitter roll:

I am generally very much against predatory monetization schemes in F2P games for consumable goods and even more so against them in premium games. I tend to oppose such techniques both as an artist and creator and also as a customer and a gamer. Evidence of my position is that we never sold Golden Keys (an arguably consumable good) in the Borderlands game. We had non-trivial levels of demand from customers to do so, but we did not relent. We chose to only give Golden Keys away via social media and partner relations. 

Contrarily, I tend to be very supportive of post-launch monetization of durable goods as DLC in *almost* any form.

I do, however, object to some of the arguments and language being used to fight against the predatory monetization schemes I have just derided in the first post in this thread. 

As an artists and creator who very much *loves* the nature of the “loot box” as it appears in our Borderlands games, I’m concerned that the words “loot box” are being used as short hand for a practice I am not in favor of. Can we find another term for what we object to?

First off, yes to a new term for the "pay to unlock" Loot Boxes. When I first think of Loot Box, my brain goes to Borderlands, where it's a giant chest of cool stuff! It's been altered over the years to become a catch-all term for any type of package where you have to pay to unlock the content. This could be real world or in-game currency. It'd be nice to have microtransactions called out for what they are.

Secondly, I've always appreciated how Gearbox has handled the golden keys for Borderlands. Golden keys are in-game currency that you can stock up on and use to unlock rare weapon caches. You can earn the keys in a handful of quests, or utilize codes posted online through Gearbox's social media channels. Though the game was first released in 2009, the keys are still being posted every few weeks. There's an active player base that still redeems enough of them to make them worth the effort. It's almost like a "thank you" to gamers for still supporting the game, so here are extra keys to get those rare weapons.

Thirdly, there is nothing wrong with paying for DLC. The biggest hang-up gamers have is that some games are released intentionally incomplete and requires DLC to finish the content. When you pay $59.99 for a game and only get half the content, then gamers are right to be upset with their purchase. DLC should be additions to the incredibly story, not a requirement to finish the base game. The context against DLC and microtransactions is important. DLC for Star Wars: Battlefront was dumb. DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition helped enhanced the game, but was not required to enjoy the base story.

While I'm still 50/50 on the fad, Overwatch has one of the better managed loot box systems. You can earn them while playing matches and eventually unlock them via daily rewards, or purchase them with coins you receive. Or you can buy them outright with real money. The rewards are all cosmetic: different hero skins, spray paints, dialogue snippets, or more game currency. Overwatch focuses on your skill. You can't pay to win. The loot boxes are ancillary. You could play the game and never once open up a box!

But at least Randy has our back. We may not always agree with Gearbox's decisions, but they are trying to give players what they want.

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