Loot Boxes  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Loot Boxes  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network ESRB Adds New Tag Indicating Loot Boxes, Random Item Drops https://www.gameskinny.com/dwx70/esrb-adds-new-tag-indicating-loot-boxes-random-item-drops https://www.gameskinny.com/dwx70/esrb-adds-new-tag-indicating-loot-boxes-random-item-drops Mon, 13 Apr 2020 15:39:50 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board backtracked a bit with its stance on loot boxes and in-game purchases. Instead of leaving it to parents to figure out the "in-game purchases" tag for themselves, the ESRB is now adding a new "(Includes Random Items)" clarifying tag.

The news comes from a new blog post on the ESRB website. It also clarifies that only games offering random items for either real money or in-game currency will have this new tag; others with cosmetic items, DLC, or anything else you can buy that isn't random will still have the usual "In-Game Purchases" tag.

The announcement reads:

...since adding the In-Game Purchases notice to ratings assigned to physical games many game consumers and enthusiasts (not necessarily parents) have reached out to us asking the ESRB to include additional information to identify games that include randomized purchases.

The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests.

By including more specificity about the randomized nature of the in-game purchases, consumers can make more informed decisions when purchasing or downloading a game, instead of finding out after the fact.

The term "loot box" is specifically avoided to accommodate the two-thirds of parents who've never heard the term or, if they have, don't know what it is, the ESRB says.

Given that knowledge, it's unclear why the ratings board takes pains to emphasize, more than once, the additions are only added because of requests from gaming enthusiasts and not on account of this research or a desire to improve consumer understanding.

It's also worth noting the specific features this tag covers are broadly what Missouri Representative Josh Hawley (not in the "gaming enthusiast" camp) used in his attempt to ban micro-transactions.

Still, at least it's another mechanism by which to combat the issue, on top of existing measures disclosing item rate drops.

The full blog post is over on the ESRB website. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more games industry news as it develops.

U.K. Commission Recommends Loot Box, Microtransaction Regulation https://www.gameskinny.com/8hv0u/uk-commission-recommends-loot-box-microtransaction-regulation https://www.gameskinny.com/8hv0u/uk-commission-recommends-loot-box-microtransaction-regulation Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:19:15 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The loot box controversy might have quieted down a bit in recent months, but that doesn't mean things aren't still happening behind the scenes. The Children's Commission for England recently submitted a report examining potential dangers and developmental problems associated with children and online gaming. Much to no one's surprise, loot boxes and microtransactions featured prominently in the report.

It first provides a case for how ingrained online gaming is in many children's lives, claiming it's "an extension of their offline life."

Because online gaming has become more than just a pastime, the Commission believes the same laws regulating offline behavior should extend to online games — including laws regulating compulsive purchases based on risk, chance, and reward (read: "gambling"). Simply disclosing rates, as some developers have opted to do, won't be enough the Commission says.

The report recommends a variety of actions, from limiting ways money can be spent in games and forbidding paid progression to using online games as digital teaching spaces that help children learn responsibility.

However, these are just recommendations from the Commission. While it's certainly influential, it doesn't mean there will be direct action or, as happened in the U.S., a bill proposed to actually enforce regulations Belgium

The full report can be found here.

18% of ESRB Ratings Include In-Game Purchases, But Some Say Tags Aren’t Enough https://www.gameskinny.com/ym79s/18-of-esrb-ratings-include-in-game-purchases-but-some-say-tags-arent-enough https://www.gameskinny.com/ym79s/18-of-esrb-ratings-include-in-game-purchases-but-some-say-tags-arent-enough Thu, 08 Aug 2019 10:44:10 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has provided a detailed update on the challenge of raising awareness about in-game purchases. The information comes from a recent Gamasutra report summarizing parts of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) In the Game conference.

The conference was meant to address the loot box and microtransaction issue plaguing the games industry, with one outcome being a promise from major publishers to present item drop rates in all games with loot boxes.

Last year, the ESRB decided to add a ratings tag for "in-game purchases." As with its other ratings tags, this tag was focused on ensuring that parents knew what content their children might come across in a game.

The ESRB says that since the tag was added in April 2018, 18% of the physical games it reviews for ratings have had an in-game purchases notice included. However, the ESRB also said at least 32% of parents don't really know what an in-game purchase or loot box is.

Patricia Vance, the ESRB's president, said more education is needed so parents actually know what they're children are playing — but it's the parents' responsibility to figure it out.

Vance's stance isn't a new one, either.

She outlined ways parents can be more proactive in an ESRB urging parents to rely on parental controls  or play the games themselves. The latter suggestion isn't something every parent is able to do, though.

According to GamesIndustry.biz's Rebekah Valentine, consumer advocates don't think disclosing drop rates and telling parents to take responsibility is a satisfactory response.

Anna Laitin, Consumer Reports' head of financial policy, said developers intentionally use persuasive tactics to influence consumers' purchases. She said that's very common in mobile games, including the recent Dr Mario World: giving players the option to wait for long periods or perform certain tasks to reach a goal, or spend real-world money to get what they want.

These design tactics aren't covered by the ESRB's new ratings tag. While the obvious conclusion to her argument is that consumers will naturally pay to reach a goal faster, the other corollary is that parents might have a different view of that design.

To them, what seems like an acceptable time to wait for a task or item to refresh might seem an impossibly long to their child.

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said the difference in perception applies even more to those vulnerable to gambling. Disclosing probability rates could potentially encourage gambling anyway, Whyte says, since the thrill is in the unknown.

Finally, Common Sense Media's Ariel Fox Johnson claims it's an issue even for those not vulnerable to gambling addiction. According to Johnson, children don't always make the connection between spending real-world money for in-game items. It becomes even more of an issue when they can use their parents' bank cards without authorization because said cards are already tied to the mobile account.

Patricia Vance has a response to all of these concerns, though: "I think you have to trust that the industry is serious about making the commitment they announced this morning."

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to Add Loot Box Chance Rates in Future Games https://www.gameskinny.com/3g3tv/sony-microsoft-and-nintendo-to-add-loot-box-chance-rates-in-future-games https://www.gameskinny.com/3g3tv/sony-microsoft-and-nintendo-to-add-loot-box-chance-rates-in-future-games Wed, 07 Aug 2019 14:30:36 -0400 Josh Broadwell

According to GamesIndustry.biz, there are some in the gaming industry looking into new policies surrounding loot boxes.

Specifically, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said that Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will add what the companies are calling loot box probability rates in all future games and updates featuring crates.

The goal is to provide consumers with enough information to determine whether they will purchase a loot box. It's an effort to make loot boxes less like gambling.

This announcement came from the ESA's Chief Counsel of Tech Policy, Mike Warnecke, as part of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) In the Game conference. In fact, the entire conference was designed to find a way of addressing the loot box problem in the games industry, and had been scheduled for some time.

Specifically, Warnecke said the policies adopted by the Big 3 and other publishers will "require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms."

Warnecke mentioned the Big 3 aren't the only developers and publishers with a plan to tackle the issue. Others involved with the ESA are taking steps on their own at the publisher level, so consumers know what they're getting when they buy a loot box.

Some of the publishers the ESA said are working on such measures include:

  • Activision Blizzard
  • Bandai-Namco
  • Bethesda
  • Bungie
  • EA
  • Take-Two
  • Ubisoft
  • Warner Bros. 
  • Wizard of the Coast

Those that still haven't publicly committed to probability rates include Disney, Deep Silver, Square Enix, and Capcom, among others, according to the report.

As of now, the target date for the Big 3 and others to implement these more transparent loot box policies is the end of 2020.

If that practice sounds familiar, it's because we've already seen it implemented recently in games like Apex Legends and with some of Tom Clancy's The Division 2's special events. EA and Ubisoft, respectively, added these updates to their already-existing loot box systems.

An Epic Games representative told GameSkinny in an email that the steps it has taken earlier this year were emblematic of the transparency the company strives to bring to all titles moving forward: 

Earlier this year, the Fortnite Save the World team made a change that showed players every item that they would get in a paid llama before opening it.

Earlier this week, the team at Psyonix announced a similar change coming later this year to paid crates in Rocket League.

Going forward, we’re committed to the same transparency for player purchases in all Epic Games titles.

However, not all games that currently have loot boxes will receive these transparency measures.

Warnecke said Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will only be doing this for future games with loot boxes or updates revolving around loot boxes. Any existing games on their platforms that already have a loot box system reportedly won't be covered under this new policy unless the developer adds it themselves.

The loot box controversy has been growing in significance over the years, with things coming to a head earlier this year. Among other things, after the FTC announced its In the Game conference, certain legislators made a bid for outlawing microtransactions entirely, including loot boxes and other in-game purchases.

However, it's worth noting that under the new policies, items obtained would still be randomized, so there's still an element of gambling to loot boxes regardless.

Gears 5 Drops Gear Packs, Season Pass But Adds Pay-to-Win Feature https://www.gameskinny.com/pjixd/gears-5-drops-gear-packs-season-pass-but-adds-pay-to-win-feature https://www.gameskinny.com/pjixd/gears-5-drops-gear-packs-season-pass-but-adds-pay-to-win-feature Fri, 21 Jun 2019 12:21:42 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Gears 5 developers The Coalition recently announced that the upcoming game will not feature Gear Packs or a Season Pass. The shift is in an effort to make the game's additional paid offerings more transparent.

The news comes via a development blog shortly after Gears 5 received a lengthy overview at E3 — and not long after several countries are moving to take action against loot boxes and their inherent element of gambling.

Rather than paying to get a random set of items, players will be able to either purchase some items they want directly or earn them through normal play. DLC maps will also be free for Matchmaking and Private Play.

The earnable content will feature primarily in a new introduction to Gears 5: Tour of Duty. This replaces the Season Pass, but it ultimately fulfills the same basic function. Gears 5's Tour of Duty will regularly introduce new content all players can earn, instead of splitting player bases between those who bought a pass and those who didn't.

Content can be earned through completing daily challenges and earning medals, and it'll be largely similar to content earned through Season Passes, e.g. character skins and the like. Earnable content will also be transparent in that Gears 5 gives players a clear path to follow to obtain what they want.

Supply Drops are replacing Gear Packs and offer random rewards just for playing, but content purchased using Iron via the in-game store won't be random. Instead, players will pay for what they want.

Tucked away at the end of the developers' blog is an interesting tidbit that seemingly goes against the blog's general grain of appeasing the players. Gears 5 is introducing Boost as a new mechanic as well. Boost offers advanced progression rates for a set period of real-time days, for instance, 24 hours or a 7-day week in the form of:

  • Double Multiplayer XP
  • Double Character XP for Escape & Horde
  • Double speed Supply Drop Progression

However, it's a paid feature. The Coalition says it isn't required to earn content or unlock features. But it's fairly easy to see the increased experience rates have the potential to divide players from a progression perspective. 

EA Defends Lootboxes As "Quite Ethical" In Statements to U.K. Parliament https://www.gameskinny.com/u49f8/ea-defends-lootboxes-as-quite-ethical-in-statements-to-uk-parliament https://www.gameskinny.com/u49f8/ea-defends-lootboxes-as-quite-ethical-in-statements-to-uk-parliament Fri, 21 Jun 2019 12:17:27 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The conjecture surrounding lootboxes is widespread. Some see them as insidious devices by which money-hungry corporations feed their greed. Others seem them as less invasive tactics by which games-as-services operate, chocking it all up to capitalism, baby. 

One that's certain, though, is that EA has been at the forefront of nearly all lootbox discussion over the past several years. The implementation of pay-to-win lootbox mechanics in Star Wars Battlefront 2 assured that. It was one of the biggest controversies of 2017, after all. 

The micros in Madden Ultimate Team and FIFA Ultimate Team only serve to further strengthen the connection between the company and the conversation. 

Now, EA has added fuel to the proverbial fire by saying lootboxes are "surprise mechanics" and "quite ethical." 

The comments come from Kerry Hopkins, vice president of legal and government affairs at EA, while speaking with the United Kingdom Parliament regarding the practice. Hopkins went on to compare loot boxes to other luck-based, prize-giving items such as Cadbury Eggs and Kinder Eggs, saying they are essentially one and the same. 

We do think the way we’ve implemented these kinds of mechanics is quite ethical and quite fun. They aren’t gambling and we disagree that there’s evidence that shows they lead to gambling.

Regardless of how one feels about the efficacy and ethical nature of lootboxes and pay-to-win microtransactions, there's no debate surrounding EA's commitment to the practice at this point in time. 

Players, despite their complaints, still pour millions of dollars each year into these systems that benefit they purveyance. According to GameIndustry.biz, EA's CFO Blak Jorgensen said that Madden and FIFA's Ultimate Team modes generate roughly $650 million each year by themselves. 

Recently, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo) brought the issue to the United States Congress by introducing the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act. It would seek "to curb what he calls the exploitation of children through loot boxes and microtransactions."

Newly Proposed Federal Legislation Seeks to Outlaw Microtransactions https://www.gameskinny.com/0ziko/newly-proposed-federal-legislation-seeks-to-outlaw-microtransactions https://www.gameskinny.com/0ziko/newly-proposed-federal-legislation-seeks-to-outlaw-microtransactions Wed, 08 May 2019 14:59:20 -0400 Josh Broadwell

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo) introduced a new piece of federal legislation today designed to curb what he calls the exploitation of children through loot boxes and microtransactions.

The proposed bill, called the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, would outlaw loot boxes, purchasable cosmetic items, and any other items, randomized or otherwise, available for real money in games that are popular with children. Hawley broadly categorizes these under two specific labels: loot boxes and pay-to-win.

Games covered under the microtransaction ban would include those specifically targeting players under 18, along with games popular with minors, but designed for wider audiences — for instance, Fortnite and Candy Crush

In fact, he offered the latter's use of phrasing and imagery as an example of predatory tactics designed to entice children, with its expensive "Luscious Bundle" ($149.99) that offers both loot and pay-to-win advantages.

Hawley said:

When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.

The proposed bill comes not too long after the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) investigation into the legality of loot boxes and whether they constitute gambling, which itself was connected to the ESRB's statement claiming loot boxes weren't related to gambling.

Loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront 2

Curiously, Hawley's statement included verbiage closely similar to recent laws outlawing battle royale games, PUBG in particular, in Nepal and Iraq:

Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world [emphasis added] and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children. through such practices

Whether that means the discussion on Capitol Hill will eventually expand to include other perceived harmful effects on children aside from gambling remains to be seen.

It also isn't certain that, if passed, the act would outright ban microtransactions and loot boxes. Legislation often doesn't pass in its original form — or even anything remotely resembling its original form.

There are also other examples of loot boxes and microtransactions that are handled in a less predatory way. One of these is fairly recent as well, Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's The Division 2, where loot boxes were transparent in what could be inside, plus there were no duplicate items.

It could be that, rather than a straight ban, developers will simply have to include alternative ways of making additional profit off of extra items like those mentioned above

FTC To Host Public Workshop On Loot Boxes https://www.gameskinny.com/ebv7c/ftc-to-host-public-workshop-on-loot-boxes https://www.gameskinny.com/ebv7c/ftc-to-host-public-workshop-on-loot-boxes Mon, 25 Feb 2019 14:40:48 -0500 QuintLyn

After agreeing to look into loot box monetization, at the request of New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has now outlined its plans to host a public workshop later this year. The intention of this event is to create a forum for a large group, including parents, consumer advocacy organizations, and the gaming industry itself, to discuss loot boxes.

As indicated in a recent letter from FTC Chairman Joseph Simons to Senator Hassan, which was obtained by Variety, it appears that, with this workshop, the FTC is trying to give the games industry a chance to create some sort of regulation around loot boxes on its own. This approach wouldn't be unprecedented, as the ESRB, a ratings board intended to provide consumers with information on which games are appropriate for children, was created in a similar way in the '90s.

Simons even addresses the FTC's work with the ESRB over the years, stating:

For example, at the request of the President and Congress starting in 1999, the FTC issued a series of reports on the extent to which the movie, music, and video game industries marketed violent entertainment to children. As the video game industry has rapidly evolved, we have remained vigilant for potential consumer protection issues, and we have continued outreach efforts to self-regulatory bodies such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

However, as Gamasutra points out, the ESRB has, thus far, not participated in the regulation of loot boxes, suggesting that the board does not believe them to be a form of gambling. Some lawmakers, on the other hand, seem to feel differently, and several countries have already begun to regulate loot boxes.

The concern of loot boxes as gambling is at the foundation of Senator Hassan's request for FTC involvement. While Simons' letter does indicate the commission's interest in facilitating conversations about loot boxes, it does not offer confirmation on whether a full investigation is currently underway.

Whether or not they're technically considered gambling, most players would agree that there is an element of gambling involved when purchasing loot boxes, as there's often no guarantee of what a player will get when opening one. At best there may be a "quality" guarantee, where boxes are confirmed to grant a specific type of item, such as a "rare" or "legendary".

Even with these guarantees, it is possible that a player may end up with a duplicate item that can't be traded or sold. This can result in some players repeatedly buying boxes until they finally get the item they want, which may come with a hefty monetary cost. This can become additionally problematic when children use the credit card information stored in their parent's mobile devices to purchase loot boxes.

While the results of the upcoming workshop remain to be seen, its existence does indicate that the FTC has some plan for investigating loot boxes. Only time will tell if that plan demands an industry-wide change to loot box practices.

More details on Simons' letter can be found on Variety's website. More details on the investigation can be found on Gamasutra.

What the FTC's Loot Box Investigation Could Mean in the U.S. https://www.gameskinny.com/hg1mc/what-the-ftcs-loot-box-investigation-could-mean-in-the-us https://www.gameskinny.com/hg1mc/what-the-ftcs-loot-box-investigation-could-mean-in-the-us Wed, 12 Dec 2018 20:23:12 -0500 Gabriella Graham

On Tuesday, November 27, Sen. Maggie Hassan called for the serious scrutiny of video game loot boxes from the Federal Trade Commission. Hassan said she requested the inquiry as an investigation into loot box marketing and its potential effects on children. 

Hassan also stated that the inquiry would work to educate parents on the potential dangers loot boxes pose as it relates to gambling and virtual chance. 

In response, FTC Chairman Joe Simons and fellow members of the FTC pledged, without hesitation, to investigate the matter of loot boxes.

The pledge, alongside recent developments in countries such as Belgium, could indicate upcoming regulations in the U.S., depending on the FTC's findings.

Gateway Transactions

Loot boxes are virtual items awarded at random in an increasing number of video games. There are two ways to acquire loot boxes in-game: using in-game currency or real-world money. 

Although many games do allow players to purchase some or all loot boxes with in-game money, that in-game money is often very hard to acquire, making the use of real-world money more enticing.  

Loot box "prizes" range from various in-game boosts to weapons to new characters, skins, and/or outfits. More often than not, loot boxes do not grant access to items that help players beat other players.

Although there are pay-to-win structures in place for some games, specifically in the mobile space, players typically buck against pay-to-win structures in most console and PC games, such as those originally found in Star Wars: Battlefront 2.  

When Hassan introduced concerns about loot boxes to the FTC, those concerns were not unique to the United States but rather common in the gaming industry. She reported:

Loot boxes are now endemic in the video game industry and are present in everything from casual smartphone games to the newest, high-budget video game releases. Loot boxes will represent a $50 billion industry by the year 2022, according to the latest research estimates.

So why does this matter to the FTC? Primarily, the children.

The rising correlation between loot boxes and gambling may come as no surprise to seasoned players or anyone paying attention to the gaming industry as a whole.

Hassan reminds us that Belgium, the Netherlands, and Japan have all already made moves to regulate the use of loot boxes. These efforts have been attempts to curtail gambling in younger generations.

To correlate this further, Hassan also cited that earlier in November, the United Kingdom's gambling commission reported that "30% of children have used loot boxes in video games."

To further drive this point home, Sen. Ed Markey cited the rise of manipulative marketing techniques in correlation to loot boxes. Although the game and character were not named, Markey pointed to a virtual character that continually cries if an in-game purchase isn't made, effectively manipulating some players (such as children who are more susceptible to such tactics) to make purchases they otherwise might not have. 

Talk about laying it on thick.

A Point of Contention

Hassan made claims that loot boxes constitute an "integral part" of video games.

Regardless of your personal opinion on chance-based revenue, this precise wording may become part of the debate and could influence FTC investigative findings.

It's true that titles like Star Wars: Battlefront 2 have been criticized for play-to-win structures. But not every game that features loot boxes punishes players' who don't fork over extra cash.

Consider Nintendo's response to digital revenue concerns. Back in June, Reggie Fils-Aimé, President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America, addressed the nasty reputation of loot boxes in an interview with Bloomberg.

He compared loot boxes to the same sort of chance kids have taken for decades with packs of baseball cards. This example is admittedly outdated, but his point still stands with cards for tabletop games like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Magic: The Gathering.

Fils-Aimé further differentiates loot boxes as a necessity versus an engaging option:

What we believe at Nintendo is that a gameplay mechanic that offers the consumer something to buy that they’re not sure what’s inside can be interesting as long as that’s not the only way you can get those items. And that’s where some developers have made some mistakes. For us, its one of many mechanics we can use to drive on-going engagement in the game.

Fils-Aimé isn't alone in his interpretation. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released a statement to Variety regarding Senator Hassan's assertions:

Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not.

Why the Definition Matters

Let's back-track for a moment and look at this from a slightly different perspective.

Sen. Hassan cited Belgium as an example of countries that have raised flags on loot box inclusions in games. Interestingly enough, the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) has emphasized how loot boxes alter gameplay experiences in their own studies, considering massive titles like FIFA 18 and Overwatch.

The stance it's taken could be bad news for the ESA if America follows suit; according to the BGC, "enhancing" the experience through loot boxes still equates to gambling, where the BGC defines gambling as "a game in which a cost from the player can lead to loss or win for at least one person, and where chance plays a role in the progression of the game, the winner, or worth of the winnings."

The concern then shifts to the possibility of how gained advantages manipulate players into making loot box purchases. Since children aren't known for their impressive impulse control, that temptation becomes more pronounced.

Some suggestions from the BGC for loot box regulation mirror those implemented by other countries, as well as those suggested by a range of psychologists.

They include:

  • player-spending limits
  • age verification methods to avoid targeting children
  • easy access to the odds of winning and the value of the rewards
  • clear indication on any and all titles that contain gambling

Depending on the FTC's findings, the United States could see similar adoptions of these recommendations. 

How do you feel about loot boxes? Are you hoping the FTC pushes regulation in the United States?

Share your thoughts and/or loot-driven horror stories in the comments.

Federal Trade Commission Commits to Loot Box Investigation https://www.gameskinny.com/t6zox/federal-trade-commission-commits-to-loot-box-investigation https://www.gameskinny.com/t6zox/federal-trade-commission-commits-to-loot-box-investigation Wed, 28 Nov 2018 22:13:47 -0500 William R. Parks

At a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing that took place Tuesday, New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan put a question to Federal Trade Commission chairman Joseph Simons. Would he commit the FTC to investigating video game loot boxes

Simons'response was simple: "Yes."

Video game loot boxes are virtual items that cost real-world money and provide random virtual rewards, an in-game weapon or cosmetic, as two examples, and Hassan's inquiry was preceded by some startling statistics about the frequency with which children are purchasing them. One such citation was pulled from a report by Great Britain's Gambling Commission, which indicated that 30% of children had paid for loot boxes at some point in their lives.

This statistic appears central to Hassan's concern, as she continued by suggesting that an investigation into loot boxes would serve to "ensure that children are being adequately protected" from them. For many, loot boxes appear to be little more than slot machines, where players insert their money and hope that a desired or high-value item is spit back out, and the lack of oversight means that children can become easy targets.

Of course, companies that include loot boxes in their games refuse the idea that they are simply a veiled form of gambling. EA, for example, distinguished their loot boxes by stating that "players always receive a specified number of items" from them. This stance puts loot boxes in closer company with opening a pack of collectible cards, as there is no potential of losing everything in the way that one can in a traditional casino game.

While video game loot boxes date back to 2004's MapleStory, the controversy surrounding them has reached a fever pitch in recent years. Games like last year's Star Wars Battlefront 2 have caused public outcry due to what players have perceived as predatory microtransaction systems, and European countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have responded by banning some game's loot boxes outright.

How this new commitment from the FTC will impact loot boxes in the United States remains to be seen. While an additional stated goal of Hassan's requested investigation is to educate parents on loot boxes, some may feel that, without oversight, they are powerless in the face of the companies that provide them to their children. This investigation may mark the beginning of some form of regulation and an end to loot boxes being made freely available to minors.

The relevant portion of Tuesday's hearing is available on YouTube.

Shadow of War's Loot Boxes Aren't as Bad as You Think https://www.gameskinny.com/p7fs0/shadow-of-wars-loot-boxes-arent-as-bad-as-you-think https://www.gameskinny.com/p7fs0/shadow-of-wars-loot-boxes-arent-as-bad-as-you-think Thu, 22 Feb 2018 14:23:29 -0500 Tyler Cosgray

Now before you jump down my throat, let me say one thing: I despise loot boxes. They are, in a sense, unregulated gambling. Granted, some aren't as bad as others (look at Fallout Shelter's compared to Battlefront 2's). Monolith's Shadow of War is no exception. Shadow of War is a fantastic game that follows up on the story of the undead ranger Talion and his wraith counterpart Celibrimbor as they face the Dark Lord of Mordor. Along the way, you'll meet countless Orc Captains, Warchiefs, and Overlords who you'll slaughter or befriend -- maybe even both!

That being said, this mostly single-player game does have a few online features, such as Overlord Pit Fights, online Fortress Siege, and online Vendetta Missions. These are fun side events that make the game almost endless. Another feature of this game is, of course, the loot box (or loot chest, as it's called here). 


Now, there are several ways you can acquire these "chests." There are gold and mithril chests that can be bought with gold, and the gold is bought with real cash. There are silver loot chests that can be bought with the in-game currency of mirian. There are even combo chests that use gold and mirian. Now, what's in these chests? Well, most of them will give you two Orc Companions -- the silver guaranteeing an Epic follower, and the gold and mithril chests promising at least one Legendary badass. They'll even throw in an upgrade for your Orcish pals to make them stronger in battle. Now, what if you get someone you don't like? Well, you can "kill" them and acquire new gear. If you like the gear, then you gain from them something you didn't like. If not, then you can sell the acquired gear for mirian. The mirian can be used to upgrade gear, upgrade your fortresses (very important for Act IV), or buy silver chests. There are even gear chests that you can buy if you want a random chance for some better gear. And again, if you don't like any of the gear, you can sell it for mirian that you can use.

Now, there are other chests that you can acquire without the use of micro-transactions. With the online features, you accumulate Spoils of War Chests. In those chests, you're guaranteed a Legendary Orc. With the Pit Fights, you can gain upgrade chests. Each successful fight your Overlord participates in grants you an additional upgrade, maxing at five upgrades per victory.

So what am I getting at here? Why am I defending the scourge of the modern gaming community with this game? Well, simply, it's that you always get something you'll need or want. If you don't like an orc you got, you can change it to a weapon. If you don't like your gear, you can destroy it for in-game currency. That in-game currency can be used to upgrade your fortress, your gear, or buy more chests. You don't have to use actual money for these loot boxes. And it is possible to get through the game without touching them at all; you can enjoy the story without even thinking about the chests.

Loot Boxes Are Not the Issue — Gamers Are https://www.gameskinny.com/y72hc/loot-boxes-are-not-the-issue-gamers-are https://www.gameskinny.com/y72hc/loot-boxes-are-not-the-issue-gamers-are Thu, 15 Feb 2018 14:58:49 -0500 SinOfApathy

Before you pull out your ritualistic, sacrificial knife: just hear me out.

The video game industry is a business, and businesses will always prioritize profit; otherwise, they will crash and burn.

So they will often put trends into practice whether that is a last man standing-style game or the much-dreaded loot box  because it works.

Perhaps one of the worst PR disasters of 2017 involved the terrible way that Star Wars: Battlefront 2 handled loot boxes: by having them actually affect gameplay, therefore creating a "pay to win" game. Even with all the bad publicity that followed, the game still made $7 million in sales and micro-transactions combined.

It's even more now, especially considering the game is regularly on sale across various storefronts. 

Blizzard's Overwatch, a game that first popularized the loot box system, made $1 billion by 2017, and as reported earlier this year, had reached another milestone: $1 billion just in micros.

That is a lot of money and a lot of loot boxes. However, the system here was well integrated, with the loot boxes rewarding purely cosmetic items — and not changing anything to do with the gameplay.

The two games mentioned above demonstrate that there is a wrong way to handle loot boxes and a right way to handle loot boxes.

Battlefront 2 may have flopped, according to sales expectations, but it still pulled in $7 million from sales and loot boxes just months after release. The latest Lord of the Rings-based game, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, also did well, even with including loot boxes in a single-player title.

If gamers detest loot boxes so much, why are we buying them?

The only explanations I can come up with are either:

  1. The majority of gamers don't have much of an issue with loot boxes and that the people complaining are a small group with a loud voice

  2. We don't even know what we want from game developers, and we purchase the products that we complain so much about anyway

It's clear that most companies benefit these practices, as gamers can and will spend over $100 on loot boxes (not including the initial price in most cases), which is far more than a game usually costs.

For a business, it is an obviously sound choice to include loot boxes in their game.

Recently, I wrote an article on Rainbow Six Siege and the price changes following the Outbreak event. When researching the topic, I found many conspiracy theories on how the price change was intended to avert eyes from the game's loot box-style system.

From all the information I had at the time, it didn't seem that bad, as there were 50 cosmetic-only items to unlock, and you couldn't get duplicates. So there was only so much you could spend on them.

We often see complaints that games are not venturing out of their comfort zones, but our money is far louder than our words  and our money disagrees.

For example, games in the Call Of Duty and Battlefield franchises held the top spots in sales charts for a while by refining the same game again and again, and as soon as they introduced a dramatic change in the core formula (as in Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Battlefield: Hardline), sales started to decline.

This is another possible piece of evidence that suggests the gaming community either doesn't know what it wants or that the people complaining are actually in the minority.

So what should we do about it? Well ... nothing. If you want to buy loot boxes, go ahead; if you don't, then don't buy them. But as long as people keep having the urge to purchase them, they are going to be here to stay even if they are being increasingly regulated

2017's Biggest Gaming Controversies https://www.gameskinny.com/b402t/2017s-biggest-gaming-controversies https://www.gameskinny.com/b402t/2017s-biggest-gaming-controversies Sat, 23 Dec 2017 19:00:01 -0500 bazookajo94


So, clearly, 2017 wasn't our year in gaming. Bullying is still a problem, both by other gamers and apparently by the companies too, and everyone's out for a quick buck. Racism is still happening, and having quarrels over who stole whose idea is running amok in the threads of the internet. 


Woven together, these controversies create a giant tapestry of hatred, greed, and apathy. 


Where can people turn when what once served as a distraction from the harsh realities of the world becomes one of the harsh realities? 


Suppose we could always just play Mario. He'll always be there for us.


You're either the type of person who saves the best for last or the worst for last; in this instance, it's both. 


Battlefront 2 stands at the forefront of 2017's biggest gaming controversies with their stance about loot boxes, their players, and their company policies. 


Everyone and their mother has probably heard by now about the rigged Battlefront 2 loot crate and hero unlocking system as an obvious ploy for money. Players could grind for an unreasonable and nearly impossible amount of time, or they could instead just buy upgrades that have significant impacts on gameplay and progression. EA's initial response earned them the most downvoted comment in the history of Reddit (maybe even the world). 


Obviously, that didn't go over so well with the community. 


Threats of refunds and abandonment of the franchise caused EA to suspend their microtransaction feature, but no one's holding out hope that when it returns, they won't still have to pay money for features that should already be available to them in a $60 game. 


Apparently, if you wanna be considered a game these days, you gotta have loot crates. 


But with so much strife surrounding the term "loot crates," it's a wonder how any game hopes to survive with them as an added feature. 


Call of Duty: WWII brings their loot crates into the ring with a more "prestige" flair than money-grubbing, but for some reason, Call of Duty is also giving incentives not only for opening a loot box, but for watching another player open theirs, too.


Though these boxes can be purchased with both real money or in-game currency, the whole ordeal feels perilously close to gambling, and the game's schemes are more about psychological manipulation than they are a blatant grab for money. 


This instance is just another in a long list of reminders that modern gaming puts a lot more focus on a grab for money than they used to. 


There's nothing quite like discovering that the system is rigged. You don't know whether to be outraged by the mistreatment or proud of yourself for finding it out (probably both). 


That's certainly how players felt about the controversy surrounding Destiny 2 and the fact that during one of the game's experience boost events, players thought they were gaining experience as usual, when in actuality, Bungie was "throttling XP progress invisibly while telling players they were earning XP as usual."


Because this process is tied to the game's microtransactions, needless to say, players felt that a ploy was afoot. Bungie rushed to fix the discrepancy, but once that kind of evil enters the world, it will never leave. 


This next controversy is best described as a hissy fit. That's right: a hissy fit. 


When Fortnite released their own battle royale mode after the already successful PUBG, developer Bluehole, outraged, complained that Epic Games stole the idea from them and took legal action against them. This spurred on a whole debate over developers "owning a genre," as the concept of a battle royale is not an entirely original idea, and began a race between the two games for supremacy (and for a moment, the winner was Fortnite). 


Though I haven't heard anything bad about either game, when one developer throws shade at another, people are probably more likely to side with the developers who aren't trying to own an idea. 


The Last of Us is a brutal game. It's rated M for a reason. Scary, bloody, traumatizing things happen in the game to both the characters and the players.


These same scary, bloody, and traumatizing things happen in The Last of Us: Part 2 trailer -- and people didn't feel too good about it. 


Though the first trailer is everything everyone's ever wanted out of a sequel for the game (Ellie playing a guitar and Joel calling her kiddo), the second released trailer had a lot more violence. Like, a lot more violence. 



In a Forbes article about the game, they mention that the needless violence of the trailer felt more like "shock value," while others argue that it's a grown-up game for grown-up people, and violence is okay. 


Regardless of which stance someone takes about the violence, we won't really know for sure what to expect until the game's release. 


As an avid watcher of streamers and an eternal fan of RPGs, I was surprised that I hadn't seen much about Persona 5 until I started reading the lists praising it. 


And then I found out about the streaming controversy surrounding it, and everything suddenly made sense. 


After its Japan release, developers disabled Persona 5's PS4 share features in order to avoid spoilers for other players. As soon as the game was released worldwide, Atlus allowed shared footage (but still no screenshots), though players had to follow a few guidelines and read a few disclaimers first. 


This was a valiant effort to try to keep the ending a surprise for the people who care about the storytelling experience, but there's no way to stop people from posting spoilers on the internet. 


Let me reiterate: there is no way to stop people from posting spoilers on the internet, and if you try to stop them, you are going to have a bad time. 


Just remember that, kids. Stay away from the internet if you don't want spoilers. Because even with the lack of footage I found for the game, if I really cared that much, I could have just Googled it. 


So far, the controversies I've mentioned have consisted of someone being punished because someone has been an asshole. This next controversy follows along that theme. 


Following the release of Friday the 13th: The Game, players anticipated a unique horror game they could play with their friends in a scary environment. Instead, they dealt with the aforementioned assholes who would verbally abuse other players (including the threat of rape/sexual assault), racism, and exploitation, among other offenses. 


Developers Gun Media took action against these malicious players, banning them from Friday the 13th -- which, naturally, made these players angry, as well as others who thought they were unfairly banned. Though Gun Media allowed players to come back if they were simply taking advantage of a bug that had since been fixed, for those who displayed verbal abuse and racism, their ban was not lifted. 


So maybe our take-away lesson for this is to stop being an asshole.


There's a fine line between people doing what they want and people taking that power and doing things they shouldn't. 


Rockstar Games and their parent developers Take-Two tried to cross that line, and public outrage ensued. 


Back in June, Take-Two issued OpenIV tools to no longer allow online players the modding feature in Grand Theft Auto 5, as they were using the mods to not only be malicious to other players but to "allow third-parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software."


Though their ban was in noble pursuits -- trying to stop bullying and retaining a fun environment for all players -- taking away creative licenses from people who expect the gaming feature made quite a few players a little testy. 


Racism is bad. I can't believe we still have to say this in 2017. I can't believe we still have to tell people that they can't be racist. 


And if a beloved public figure is racist, they are soon to be not beloved anymore. 


Earlier this year, popular YouTuber JonTron released a series of comments reflecting his racist and political views. Upon discovery of the comments, Playtonic, developers of Yooka-Laylee, a game in which JonTron had a voice acting role, removed JonTron from the game. 


It is refreshing to see a developer act so fast when a public figure does something wrong. 


Let me reiterate: it is refreshing to see someone be punished for doing something wrong rather than keeping their position. 


Good on you, Playtonic. 


Just when people started to think that 2017 couldn't get any worse, so close to the end, it, well, got worse. Though I am reluctant to bring more negativity into the world by mentioning the repeal of a basic human right, the loss of net neutrality is but another reminder that no one in a position of power cares what the public has to say anymore. 


And when there are those who hope to avoid this negativity and distract themselves from the horrid way the year is ending by visiting a beloved pastime, they find they cannot even avoid the drama anywhere. 


Yes, 2017 was a year for controversies in the gaming industry, with Battlefront II and PUBG taking the forefront near the end. Many of this year's controversies also dealt with corporate greed and lack of compassion for players (read: the public). 


So I better get this article published before no one's allowed to read it anymore.