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The Random Box Problem

Random boxes are becoming a bigger and bigger trend in full price games. These random box systems started in free to play games.  It has taken hold like many other video game trends starting t totally dominate the market. The idea of selling people randomness at a “low price” is extremely profitable for companies. So I want to talk about how  Random Boxes should be illegal.

Let’s talk a bit about the psychology of the random box. It’s a popular thing even in real life with things like loot crate, this idea of the unknown, of “winning big” of getting something that is like a present. It’s a way to make extreme emotions that both encourage more purchases. Open a random box and pull horribly and you need another one to get that thing you wanted. Open really well and you are “on fire”, you can totally keep getting good stuff. These are taking advantage of positive and negative feedback and are win wins for a company.  It’s the same systems that are used in gambling, these things are gambling but without the prospect of winning real life money.  

Overwatch is a darling fan favorite game but it’s loot box system is utter gutter trash. We can talk about it being “optional” all you want but the fact is that it is the way to earn things in the game. A sense of progression is what games are all about, that’s why cookie clicker and rip offs find success, it’s just progression the game. So Overwatch takes the desire to progress and makes it random, it’s possible to get to level 200 and have never pulled one Item for your favorite character. It being tied to a slower and slower leveling system means the more you play, the less you get but the more you play the more invested you are in the game. Your likeliness to buy a loot box increased but you already paid 40-60 bucks for this game (maybe even more). There is no way to earn this boxes outside of leveling up and no way to limit what can spawn inside the boxes.

This extremely devious system is a scam of taking content you bought the code to, then making you pay them for it. There is no way to naturally unlock skins for your characters, there is so many ways this system could be improved but that’s a post for another day because even if it was improved this stuff is still really bad. If you just take youtube lootbox opening and other random boxes inside games it’s easy to show that they alone likely make more money for the companies then the games do on their own, Then you got to factor that these videos encourage people to buy as well so they can “win big” like the other people.

Even in free to play games this stuff is dubious. The price of admission to a free to play game is dealing with the psychological warfare of microtransactions but random boxes are still gambling. Generally these systems are not at all balanced for equalling out in a fair price and very rarely is this content really worth what they really want you to pay for it. It’s a way to keep people buying and buying things to insane prices that no one would pay for a game as simple as a free to play game is. These things take in so much money and it’s sick because it’s taking advantage of people. It’s saying “well just till I get this character” and things like that. A person in an isolated chamber is okay but when it’s everyone it’s feeding so much money into people’s mouths that they should have no right to.

There is so much to break down and cover here that games do too. Timed exclusives, screwing with rates, taking away things, there is so much that is just awful. This could be a series of posts that I do every day and I am pretty sure I’d have new things to talk about every day for at least a few months. I could talk more about the just cosmetic argument many random box systems use but cosmetics in online games are important if they weren’t people wouldn’t bother to design costumes. I could talk about how rarity creates rapid consumerism as illustrated by card games. I could talk about a lot of things but all this stuff is bad, feel free to comment about whatever and I’ll gladly make a post in the future addressing everything people brought up.

What does matter is that these random boxes are bad, objectively scummy trash. They pull at your money, they use brand loyalty to defend themselves, they use the same psychology as gambling. It’s okay to like battleborn, overwatch, marvel future fight, whatever game uses these systems. I love a ton of games that use these systems but we should be talking about how bad these systems are. Random boxes should be illegal and the least we can do is call companies on their shit.


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