Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront 2 sparked a controversy that landed on the front page of Reddit and garnered the attention of at least 15 European countries and one American State. This got me thinking about recent events and how it has made me think about how this affected my enjoyment in gaming.
Remember that our goal is to reach financial independence and be happy. I remember falling in the loot box trap and how I almost spiraled into a non-stop gambling spree. I want to help you guys not do what I did.
What are loot boxes?
Loot boxes are digital boxes that you open and you can randomly get cool prizes from it. The process of obtaining (or opening them) depends on the game, but it usually comes down to spending some actual real money to obtain one or a way to open one.
This wasn’t apparent before, but thanks to regulations in China and Japan, game developers now have to show gamers what their chances of getting their elusive prizes are. Let’s take a look at an example of these odds from a mobile game called Eternal Senia:
Unbelievable, eh? Not only that, these are just for types of cards alone! I can scroll even further and it will outline what the chances are for each card in the pool! So if I wanted to obtain a specific card, I only have a chance as low as 0.04% (after some rounding) of getting that card!
So let’s do some math. Let’s say you open 100 boxes. These boxes have the same rolls each time you open, which means that if you open another box after this current one, that box will have the same 0.04% chance of getting that card you want as this one.
Chances of you not getting your card when you open your box: 1 – (0.04/100) = 0.9996
Doing this 100 times: 0.9996^100 = 0.9608
Your chance of you getting that card in 100 tries: 1 – 0.9608 = 0.0392 → 0.000392%
Yep, these are really bad chances. Not only that these loot boxes have fancy celebratory animations that congratulate you for getting your nice loot! People love to be congratulated! They like to see the fancy things! We’re all prone to it, even though the screen just told you got crap! It’s frankly addictive!
Why is this a trap?
When loot boxes first came out on Team Fortress 2, I was lured by the idea of having cool hats. And not just any cool hat either. It was a cool hat with cool effects. I’m a sucker for cosmetics and I’m not the only one. Lots of gamers love to customize everything about their game, which includes their characters. I spent almost $200 trying to get a hat with cool effects! I did get one eventually, but I was never happy, because I didn’t get that cool effect I wanted. This was made before the mandatory laws for developers to show all of their loot chances! I had no idea what I was going into! It wasn’t pure disappointment either though, I showed off my hats a lot while I was playing, but I could never get rid of that sour feeling. I will say this that this was a bad investment.
While cosmetics aren’t too bad on that scale, as it did not affect gameplay (unless your computer is garbage) there are many games with loot boxes that featured gameplay changing elements. These are very apparent in a lot of games developed in Asian countries, like Korea and Japan (whose marketed audience is in the mobile industry). Usually these features grant you a huge advantage if you get one of the rarest findings offered in the game. This really ticked off many players because it erased the value and concept of progression in the game. This encouraged a system where players with big wallets (affectionately called “whales”) would just throw money at the developers to eventually get that rare game-breaking drop. Star Wars Battlefront 2 has gotten this phenomena exposed to the whole world.
Also, loot boxes of today tend to have these nice flashy graphics with slot like mechanics that allowed you to watch how close your desired loot escapes your clutches. Here’s the shocking truth of this: your prize is already predetermined. Most likely you are already set to lose.
I absolutely hate them.
I hate, hate, hate loot boxes. People don’t understand why I hate them so I shall outline it here.
I hate that when I play against someone who has won something that I wanted, I go into a green fit of envy. I can’t get my prize otherwise either by earning it, or the not so bad option, buying it directly.
I get angry when I get wrecked in a game that has interesting and deep mechanics and I found out my opponent has a piece of gear that I cannot get elsewhere. My hard work in progression is ruined because someone has cheesed through certain spots that I still have trouble with because of a game-breaking piece of gear.
I abhor the idea of buying my way through progression because in a game that doesn’t feature player versus player has a turtle-like pace of manually grinding to the next stage. I am encouraged to buy and if I wanted to progress, I either have to rely on outrageous luck to win (if I refuse to buy) or buy for a significantly better chance of winning.
I don’t like how these flashy graphics get my hopes up for something that already tells me I lost. I don’t like losing. Or rather, I don’t like paying money for something to tell me that I lost. Every purchase you do should tell you that you’re a winner and a worthy prize at that.
What can you do to avoid this?
It’s actually much simpler than you think. Just don’t buy them. For some people it’s already harder than it sounds.
If you’re already stuck in the trap, I have to urge you to pull out. Think of it this way: loot boxes are very much like gambling at a slot machine. It is actually frightening that you can get trapped into a loop that you will never win and never get your investment back. The fact that there are mechanics like this in a hobby meant for children is absolutely terrifying. If you imagine yourself like pulling a slot machine, maybe that can help you. Remember this: if you try to win your money’s worth back, you’ll never get it back. You lost those dollars in the slot machine. It’s better to spend them to make them work for you.
Now that the government is getting involved, I also highly urge you to talk to your local representative and ask them what they are doing about this. Get active and involved. Implore that future generations are getting hooked into gambling and they don’t know it. (Ok, really, we’re looking out for ourselves here, but hey helping others not falling into this trap is rather convincing to get others to rally to our cause!)
Loot boxes are the bane of any financially savvy gamer.
It is hard to believe that we are being introduced to such a costly consumable, especially to young children who are coming to follow in our footsteps! For any concerned gamer parent out there, it’s best to keep these out of their hands. I wanted you guys to know my story as to why I hate loot boxes. I fell into the trap of gambling for nothing and it has cost me a lot. There are some people who spent over $10 000 on these!
Please share to your friends and family! I just wanted to get this out there!
But don’t worry, I hope you still stick around. The next few posts will be more informative and instructional. 😉