Visit the original website for the artist’s opinion on loot boxes and the dark road ahead.
For those unaware, many game developers these days use a loot box progression system at the ire of many gamers. A loot box is a package of randomized virtual items that is typically earned in-game and bought with real money. Many people don’t like this because a randomized system means some people might be very lucky and get really great items, while an unlucky person could outspend them ten/hundred-fold and still not get a desired item.
This system preys on people with low impulse control, high desire for instant gratification and with gambling addition (it’s basically a slot machine for video games). On any video game forum that utilizes the loot box system, you’ll see many articles of players that have spent THOUSANDS of dollars in the hopes of getting something good. The sad fact of the matter is, they typically don’t, or it takes an ungodly amount of disposable income to do so.
I’ve played the following games that have utilized the loot box system and have varying opinions of their usage:
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
How they do it: players gain loot boxes every level up (ranges from 5-10 matches), which provide only cosmetics (character skins, spray designs, victory poses, etc). Duplicate items are instantly replaced with currency (fraction of the value) that is used to buy more currency. This currency can be used to purchase specific items outright; in this way, a player will ‘eventually’ earn enough to purchase what they desire.
The Good: There is no competitive advantage in these cosmetics, so a player can spend $0 additional money and be just as good as a person that shells out thousands of dollars. A player can get something they desire directly, eliminating the random chance.
The Bad: Although you can earn every reward in the game, some events are time-sensitive, meaning that without investing hundreds of hours of game time, you may not get a specific reward. Also, you may receive a duplicate item, which will grant you a small amount of currency, but that means your chances to earn rare items doesn’t get better with more time invested (only that you’ll have more currency to spend).
Game: Mass Effect Andromeda
How they do it: in multiplayer, loot boxes give all manner of items, including character classes, weapons and consumables. There is a duplication system in which, getting a duplicate character or weapon, will increase its level (and thus strength) up to 10. Once a player has a certain item of level 10, the loot box can no longer give that item, thus the pool of available items have been reduced (increasing the chance of getting other items). Currency was earned though group performance, mainly through completion and the difficulty of the mission. This currency could be used to purchase 4 different levels of loot boxes giving a higher rarity of items and chances to earn a rarity above.
The Good: Per above, a strategy employed by some players was to purchase the cheapest boxes, thus reducing the pool of items, increasing the chance of getting better items/maximizing your currency spent.
The Bad: Although the game was a cooperative multiplayer game, due to the random nature of the rewards, you would be locked out of certain content (characters and weapons). This was particularly nasty because in the early days, weapon balancing was extremely poor and some weapons were incredibly powerful. There are also consumables which can help make a match easier, but are sometimes required to succeed at high difficulty missions.
Developer: Epic Games
How they do it: completing daily quests and achievements will grant a currency that can be used to purchase loot boxes. There is only 1 daily quest per day granting (typically) 50 currency. (Purchase-able) Loot boxes come in a standard version (has a chance of getting anything: heroes, ‘gear’, weapons, xp) which costs 100 currency. Every day there is a new loot box available for 350 currency which is typically a specialized version (only melee weapons, or only ranged weapons, or only heroes). Once in a blue moon, there is a legendary box which costs anywhere between 1000-1500 currency which has a guaranteed chance of getting at least 1 legendary item. Duplicates give another version of the same item, which can be recycled for xp (used for leveling items) or put into a collection folder which gives other rewards.
The Good: The guarantee of getting a legendary item (the best rarity, technically) when saving up for the legendary box.
The Bad: Duplicates do not decrease the pool of items, and players are limited to the amount of currency they can earn on a daily basis. The game is a cooperative game, but spending thousands of dollars still could result in not getting a desired item. There is no direct way to earn a specific item, other than from sheer luck.
I share the same opinion as the artist at CAD Comics.. but unfortunately loot boxes are here to stay for the very long term.