The Loot Box Backlash – How will Blizzard Handle it?


This past week had been extremely interesting, there’s been a huge debate and backlash over loot boxes in games. EA has taken the brunt of the heat for Star Wars Battlefront 2 but will it have repercussions for Blizzard and what does it mean for a future Diablo game?

Perhaps you’ve not been following the general gaming news much this week but EA has been called out by the Star Wars Battlefront 2 community for terrible progression system decisions and pay to win game mechanics. It’s caused such an uproar that even government bodies around the globe have chipped in.

Belgium’s Minister of Justice has called loot boxes gambling and is now pushing to have them banned in the EU. In Hawaii, a press conference was held with Democrat representative Chris Lee standing up calling them “online casino specifically designed to lure kids into spending money.” Both bodies were specifically targetting Star Wars Battlefront 2 and EA for their “predatory practices” (see video), and rightly so. The game was such a mess that EA disabled all paid for purchases the day before the game launched.

Diablo players know that Blizzard has not exactly pushed out new content as there is no additional revenue stream following the DiabloWikiauction house closure. This has been frustrating for everyone and I often read comments from players saying why don’t they add cosmetics of DLC to fund the game? It is an option but it’s not easy cash.

Blizzard is no stranger to loot boxes, it’s what helps keep their latest cash-cow Overwatch running with continual content updates. While Overwatch loot boxes can be earned as rewards by simply playing, the temptation is there to throw cash at the game in the hope you’ll get something you really want. There’s a percentage chance of receiving Common, Rare, Epic and Legendary items nut least the items are not giving players an advantage, unlike Battlefront 2. It’s easy money for Blizzard.

What the authorities are worried about is the addiction factor and whether it can be deemed gambling with younger gamers or vulnerable adults not realising they have become addicted to buying.

The reason this has come to head this week is that EA had created a progression system that locked away key content such as heroes. You would have to play a ridiculous amount of hours just to access the content. Simply put, EA was pushing the limits of what was tolerable.

Imagine you the only way you could find a Legendary was via a loot box or you knew one would only drop if you had at least played X hours.  I don’t think many players would be impressed. This begs the question, what will happen with the next Diablo? How will Blizzard monetise the game and what will they do if regulators step in and deem these kinds of game mechanics gambling?

Blizzard will be watching how this plays out very closely because the last thing they would want is the community to rise up like they have against EA.

For more on this week’s loot box debate, check out Peter’s article on this on PC Invasion and let us know what you think about Blizzard and a possible way to monetise the next Diablo with or without loot box mechanics.

Comments

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  1. Perhaps the future of loot boxes will be transparency and control. As opposed to mystery and randomness.

    Every 15-30 minutes the content of the boxes updates, and you know exactly what the contents will be.
    You are limited to maybe 6-10 purchases a day.
    You have 3 re-rolls every day.
    To purchase a loot box, you simply buy one like normal, and you get what you see.
    To purchase multiples (and if duplicated content does not matter) You may “save” a loot box, and then re-roll it. If you like what you re-rolled, you save that one. If you like the next two re-rolls, you have 4 saved boxes and can purchase them all at once, each with their own special content.

    I dunno how that will fare, it could suck, but transparency and control will definitely be something that will change about these loot boxes. They may just vanish entirely, and vanity/cosmetic micro-transactions will prevail.

    /shrug

    Reply
    • In terms of Diablo, I think it’s best if Blizz doesn’t design the game around a money making mechanic, like RMAH’s, or loot boxes. I personally think that kind of stuff has no place in Diablo.
      I suppose there’s nothing wrong with trying to make it fit with the game. It’s a problem when it’s the other way around, and they make the game to fit with the money maker. *cough* RMAH *cough hack flem wheeze*

      Reply
      • I don’t know about that. There certainly is a large enough audience that are/were interested in the transmog stuff in D3 that you could probably quite easily sell skins and people would want them. Hell, you just need to look at PoE where their entire monetisation IS character customisation and stash tabs.

        Reply
      • I would gladly pay $5 every once in awhile for new content and a slight advantage over players enjoying the new content for free. Do you prefer having a dead game?

        Reply
  2. Anyone remember when we bought Game Genie or Game Shark to get an unfair advantage over the game? Now the game designers are selling us the same thing at a much higher price…

    Reply
  3. “How will Blizzard monetise the game and what will they do if regulators step in and deem these kinds of game mechanics gambling?”

    They can monetize it the same way they monetized their older games – you sell the box and call it a day. Not all games require ongoing development, the cost for which has to be offset by microtransactions of any kind.

    Reply
    • But then there is zero value in trickling content out to players. They would have to group up all the new content and sell it as an expansion.

      If they did away with the loot boxes, odds are they would just give you a tiny amount of in game currency for each round or rank up, and you’d have to buy everything using that. Then they would simply just sell in game currency for real money, probably at a rate where it would cost you five, ten, fifteen dollars for a legendary skin, depending on how the math goes.

      Reply
      • “They would have to group up all the new content and sell it as an expansion.”

        Well they did that with the previous Diablo, with Warcraft III, with Starcraft II (at least in the first two expansions) and every game before that and I’d say it was fairly effective. But my point is moot anyway, since it’s as good as guaranteed that they’ll have some form of microtransactions in every new game from now on. The main thing is to make it as unintrusive as possible.

        Reply
    • “you sell the box and call it a day.”

      That’s great if you don’t want additional content. Some of us want the developers to keep working on their games.

      Reply
  4. Loot boxes can be compared to booster packs from Hearthstone or Magic, though in all CCGs it’s pay-to-win. There were many CCG games, many made in a wake of Magic, but only a few survived, but still, there are people who spend money on this. Same thing will happen in the gaming industry, but like with WoW, there will be one that hits. Maybe simple FPS is the wrong genre, but it is the hottest now.

    There is an opinion that “loot boxes” are not gambling because there is a guarantee of getting something in return. It doesn’t mean that it is less addictive or damaging, like shopaholism.

    Reply
  5. Once an industry starts to nickel and dime its customers it’s the sign of the apocalypse. This’s what’s going to kill this industry. RIP Video Gaming 1972 – 2017. Hell, it’s probably going to be replaced with early forms of VR by 2020 anyway.

    Reply
  6. Well I think there’s nothing wrong with selling cosmetics for those who want to dress play with their characters. That is unobtrusive for the rest of us who place a higher value on game mechanics than in visuals. Cosmetics don’t affect gameplay nor they turn a game into a pay-to-win mess.

    It produces revenue for the devs and those interested get their pretty pictures.

    I’d say that it’s win-win.

    Reply
  7. One-Time pay for the main-game as well as for expansions is good and legal. (Example D2, D3 etc)

    Free-To-Play with Micro-Transactions for NON-Pay-To-Win in-game things like “Transmogs” or extra-Stash space etc, where you know what you get for your money, is good and legal. (Example POE)

    Charging for the Main-Product, and then charging the player to be able to play what you just bought, is borderline organized crime. (Example WOW)

    Charging For the Main-Game, and then introducing Pay-To-Win Micro-Transactions with objects that benefit individuals beyond visual aspects, is organized crime.

    Gambling Boxes (aka Loot-boxes, Crates whatever) that you have to pay for and dont know whats in it, is pure gambling and designed to maximize profits by exploiting human weakness. Further, its extremely likely that Gaming-Studios will add a shit-load of “Garbage-Rewards” to lower the probability for people to get what they really want, and thus increase the spending necessary for gambling-boxes. It’s pure organized crime that is hard to stop because of poor laws.

    Reply
    • I don’t have any issue with gambling. If that is how people want to waste their money and even if their are irresponsible it is their life, and no one should be the moral police of whether gambling is right or wrong.

      With that said gambling in any form should follow whatever laws apply within a jurisdiction. I don’t know of any area that allows minors to gamble. So if game companies want to include a gambling function that would give the game an AO rating and they would have to verify age or get sued by the government.

      On a side note, I like how using cartoon animals for advertising was deemed to be targeting children and banned for cigarettes cause it was targeting an illegal market, but in my state the state itself (PA) uses a talking gopher to run commercials to sell lottery tickets. The double-standard of government…

      Reply
    • I haven’t seen so much wrong in a post in years.

      “Charging for the Main-Product, and then charging the player to be able to play what you just bought, is borderline organized crime. (Example WOW)”

      You are just talking about of your ass, This is not organized crime and loot boxes are not gambling. you seem to have no clue what you are talking about.

      Reply
      • It’s more likely that you’re just blindly wasting your money to buy a temporary license to access the game, and then buying some of the base content, and then a third layer of microtransactions. In short, I doubt he’s lying, and I think it’s you who needs to figure out what you’re talking about.

        Organized crime is a strong term, yes, and one that could be tempered down; but it’s not far fetched to call loot boxes where you pay for a chance to get garbage or a chance to get something setting you beyond other players gambling. Is gambling not the act of paying for the chance to get a decent item, with a fair probability of that money being wasted? Same would happen with certain implementations of loot boxes.

        If they do add loot boxes, the best suggestion I’ve seen in the comment boxes thus far comes from the first comment.

        Reply
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