The controversy surrounding loot boxes has grown exponentially in recent years when pay-to-win microtransactions snuck their way into what was supposed to be a cosmetics-only feature for potential more revenue. While it shouldn't be begrudged for a business wanting to make additional money - that is the very nature of business - the real issue lies in players being able to buy their way into an advantage, almost forcing the feeling of needing to spend more money in order to keep the pace. EA has been one of the biggest companies hit with this negative spotlight, but they definitely aren't alone. It's because of that upwards trend that Epic Games CEO took to the DICE stage to put his official anti-loot box stance front and center.
During DICE this year, Sweeney took a moment to talk about why the rest of the industry needs to move aware from an "adversarial model" and into something more with the player in mind. Fortnite doesn't have any loot boxes, though it does have a transparent shop, and is still one of the highest-grossing games on the market today.
According to the Epic Games CEO: "We have to ask ourselves, as an industry, what we want to be when we grow up? Do we want to be like Las Vegas, with slot machines ... or do we want to be widely respected as creators of products that customers can trust? I think we will see more and more publishers move away from loot boxes."
He added, "We should be very reticent of creating an experience where the outcome can be influenced by spending money. Loot boxes play on all the mechanics of gambling except for the ability to get more money out in the end."
The practice of loot boxes has been under fire for years now, even so far as some countries banning the inclusion of them in games and classifying this feature as gambling. Interestingly enough, Sweeney also added a little bit of subtext spanning off of consumer-related practices, specifically calling out social media branding: "We have businesses that profit by doing their customers harm. Facebook and Google have been one of the leaders in this ... They provide free services then make you pay for their service in loss of privacy and loss of freedom."
Many publishers and developers have flipped how they approach loot boxes and live-service models over the past year after massive bombs as seen in games like Star Wars Battlefront II during its launch and the live-service philosophy seen in Anthem. It will be interesting to see what the feature of loot boxes will mean for gaming a year from now, but 2020 is definitely starting off with a bang by calling them out.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter