From Massively the other day comes news that an unnamed Gearbox developer would like folks to stop calling lootboxes, er, lootboxes because they’re predatory things, and loot is a good thing. It didn’t look like this dev actually had any suggestions for what else to call them, so this is my attempt to come up with some alternate names for lootboxes.
Alternate Names For Lootboxes
First up is Gamble Boxes, or possibly Game Crates. I hear the jury is still out on whether or not this business model is actually gambling, even though the Belgian government is looking to ban lockboxes because it thinks they are actually gambling. Thing is some folks don’t believe it’s gambling because you always receive an item that is of some use.
From my perspective, anything that requires a player to commit a resource to take a chance on winning something is gambling. It doesn’t matter if everyone wins a prize, if there are odds involved and the possibility of winning something you wouldn’t actually spend money on, then you are gambling.
As with anything, there are levels. It could be said that rolls on loot from a raid are gambling since you’ve spent a resource, time, to get the chance to win something. And you may not win what you need. But that’s pretty low level and kind of the nature of that kind of game system. The same goes if you spend in-game currency in an in-game lottery, like the Gigglegibber Goblin Lottery in Everquest 2. That’s more like gambling. The concern there is that it teaches gambling to kids.
But spending real money on the chance to win. Well that a lottery system. To my mind there is no doubt that this is gambling.
Perhaps we could also call loot-boxes, lotto-boxes.
I reckon this is a good alternate name for loot-boxes.
Loot-boxes are targeted at players with a lot of disposable income. Also known by the unflattering term, Whales.
Incidentally, the term Whale comes directly from the world of the casino. Perhaps that’s another indicator that this is a gambling system.
Some of these players spend thousands of dollars on in-game items including loot-boxes. While someone like myself is likely to avoid a system that gives a chance to win an item and buy that item directly from the cash shop (if it’s wanted badly enough,) a whale is likely to dump quite a lot of money into the chance to win. These boxes are good at catching whales.
While games do need to make money, it’s the reason businesses exist after all, there are more ethical ways of doing so. Loot-boxes are designed to wring out as much money as possible by making the chances of winning a desired item low enough to keep players spending on them until they get that item. This has raised a lot of questions recently about the ethics of loot-boxes.
Personally, I think they’re unethical. One of the big problems I have with them is that no-one knows what the odds of winning are.
Sure, the description can say that you have a chance of winning that mount, or skin, or whatever, but what are that actual odds. One in ten, one in a thousand, one in ten billion. No one knows. At least if you play any game of chance in Vegas you know the odds or can calculate them. With loot-boxes the odds can vary depending on how much the company wants to get out of you. And there’s no way of telling if the odds change day to day or month to month, perhaps depending on the company’s balance sheet.
Perhaps if we knew the odds of winning, loot-boxes would be more ethical, but we don’t and the devs don’t seem inclined to reveal the chances of a particular item coming up. I wonder why?
Opening a lootbox tends to be an exercise in frustration. While I’ve never paid to open a loot-box, I have received several free keys at times. The last time this happened was in Guild Wars 2. I received a couple of free keys and had a stack of boxes in my inventory that I was just about to trash. I figured why not and used the keys. This resulted in receiving two portable shops. These were things that allowed me to open a shop and sell my useless inventory items wherever I was.
I suppose as items go they weren’t completely useless, except I never used them. I always waited until I got back to a shop keeper before vendoring my inventory.
But if I’d paid for those keys and just got those portable shops, believe me, I would have been frustrated.
FUBoxes I think best describes this method of making money in games. What used to be a method for bringing in some cash in free or buy to play games has now progressed to AAA games that have a full shelf price. Think the controversy with EAs Star Wars Battlefront 2. This game costs upwards of $60 US dollars. Full AAA price in other words. Yet they’ve introduced a means to extract more cash from the wallets of players by putting desired content behind a lootbox paywall. (This has been suspended for the time being, but is likely to return.)
How’s that for a big FU to players?
Now it’s your turn. What alternate names can you come up with for loot-boxes?