Monday Mumbles: Lootboxes/Micro-transactions

Written By TheChoujinVirus
Disclaimer: What I might talk about is based on my own opinions and might hit some areas that are sensitive to some people. So remember not to take it personally; this is my opinion.

Good Monday to you all, it’s ya boy Choujin here for what I call Monday Mumbles. Something that your boy finds and mumbles about various things found. Sometimes it’s political, and other times it’s non-political. So sit back, grab yourself your favorite drink or snack, and let’s get this going on.

Your boy here is an avid gamer as with everyone else, so I’ve played a few games. Some on consoles, PCs, and dove into a few mobile games, and one thing I’ve noticed (as well with everyone else) is the increased basis of micro transactions and the dreaded dirty word “Loot boxes.” For those who might not know what these are or oblivious to the hot button issues, Loot boxes were items you got in the game that once unlocked; one could acquire anything. Sometimes something aesthetic like a costume skin or something like new skills/characters. At first, it was common in some free to play games one could see like Star Trek Online, Perfect World, and even Champions Online. Then, later on, you got games out there that you paid full prices such as the latest Battlefield or the more controversial Star Wars Battlefront II, and *BOOM!* Now everyone’s enraged over how predatory it has become since some would be forced to use real-world money to get them or risk-taking weeks or months to get some hero characters.

I’ve seen the argument about loot boxes and how they put it. Yes, a lot of them are predatory and designed for you to sink all your cash to get something exclusive. When I played Star Trek Online, it took me a ton of money to get those lock box keys and a lot of boxes to get one of the Kelvin Science Dreadnought. God knows how much money some spent to get the Kelvin Constitution. It shows that if you put an incentive, people will dump their whole life savings to get some of these ships.

Heck, in an unrelated moment, I knew a guy who dumped over two hundred dollars in Overwatch loot boxes to get some skins! Seriously, that’s just crazy. Oh, and don’t think I’m going out of my way to bash games like Overwatch or Star Trek Online (though your boy does like ST:O from time to time), it’s just something that I can find hair pulling — putting rare items into loot boxes and banking on people to spend money on boxes, keys to unlock, or both just to get a chance at said items/skins/or other things. No wonder people today think it’s gambling (though honestly, it’s as gambling as buying booster cards/boxes of cards and hoping to pull that one thing.)  Though one benefit between cards and digital items is that I can buy the card without having to buy another box and try again and that the card is personally mine, not the game developers. Now, I’m sure one might say, ‘What about micro-transactions? At least they can show you what you’re buying.’ Why yes, it’s true, they do show you what you can buy, but they’re not above criticism.

Now, micro-transactions. Oh yeah, I’m sure you are familiar with those if you’ve played mobile games. They usually may require you to buy “premium currency” to purchase specific resources, items, skins, timer reductions, etc. Anything that is in a mobile game, you could buy it with said special currency or money directly. However, some do become scummy, depending on the case. One time, I played a mobile game called Final Fantasy XV: A New Kingdom, which was based on the new FFXV game that came out but made into a kingdom building game. I ended up buying a pack for 20 dollars and thought I could get some items cheap. Next thing you know, the next pack with the same value cost 50 dollars, and that’s when I suspected that they’re raising the price of the packs so that I’m spending more and more…Your boy realized that this is pure trash and crap! I mean, why jack the price of packs to get more money! It felt like a scam that if I kept buying these, I’d probably be paying over one hundred dollars just for a basic pack. This crud encourages “whales” (people who sink money) to get an edge though there are other games that do some shady stuff.

Another game I played was known as Star Wars Commander, a mobile game that’s like Clash of Clans but with Star Wars units and such. The game has a history in gaming communities as a pay to win like game, as it encouraged you to pay some amount of money to gain an edge for things like unit upgrades and elite units that can give you an edge against other units or protection against other players. One could play free to play the whole game, but you could take a long time to get some core units needed for that game’s meta. So in some ways, you’re forced to buying premium currency (or hoarding every rare premium currency that sometimes drops.) and use that on rare occurrences.

Now, I’m not bashing loot boxes, and micro-transactions, when done right and free to play games, need some way to pay the bills. The largest picture comes from games that already have you paying full price and having micro-transactions just for that. When I pay sixty dollars for a game, I’d expect the game to be complete with no stuff hidden behind micro-transactions though I can tolerate some things like cosmetic costumes or DLC expansions. However, when you got games that hide power behind lock boxes or encourages people to buy premium currency and items, then it becomes a literal pain in the butt! In a way, I can tolerate some of it on Free To Play Games (to an extent) but not in games I pay full price. I mean, Imagine if someone bought a game like Fallout: New Vegas and it had all that micro-transactions found in Fallout 76. That would be one hell of a problem that is pointless and just predatory for a good game.

Now I’m sure you’re asking, “Hey! How can we stop this stuff then? Should we boycott?”
Now, In my sense, I would encourage several factors: Moderation and not supporting predatory practices. Now Moderation is one thing as for some games, whales (and those who have spending issues) may need to learn to either spend in little quantities or not spend on it at all if they do pay their whole life savings on one item or premium consumers. This is also important for those who have young children, as those little guys can accidentally spend your entire life savings on those items and costumes. Now the next is one thing that some, including a friend of mine who chatted with me, suggests outright boycotting them. Now, I do respect my friend’s idea, and he did bring a good point, though I would go with merely ignoring the predatory practices (pay to win mechanics, literal gambling) and moderating some of the other items (cosmetics).

I know that some people might feel that modern gaming is becoming so rampant with microtransactions and loot boxes. Some might root for government intervention to stop some of these industries form doing this. However, as your boy mentioned, lootboxes are as powerful as we make them. That if you don’t buy said lootboxes or purchase those pay to win items, you’ll ensure that they’ll get the message. Will it work? I’m not sure, but its better than relying on government intervention to solve this mess.

With that, what’s your take on micro-transactions, loot boxes, and how would you find a solution in that big hot train wreck of a gaming concept? Comment below.

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