Video games have evolved quite a bit since the early days of Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. In the modern days of console and PC gaming, the landscape is constantly changing. One of the newest staples of gaming today is loot boxes. There are plenty of ways to do them wrong, and few to do them right.
Loot boxes are the latest form of microtransactions. For a few dollars, you can unlock boxes (or crates, cards, chests, whatever you want to call them) that have game content in them. Upgrades, costumes and skins, perks, new weapons and powerups, things like that.
Gamers are a loyal group. That comes with ups and downs. If a studio releases quality games and make gamers feel like they’re getting an excellent value for their dollar, they will support that studio vehemently. But if they feel like the studio is ripping them off, stunting the fun aspects of the game for the sake of making a few extra dollars, gamers will do everything they can to drag that studio down. EA’s recent issues with Star Wars: Battlefront 2 are a perfect example. By getting greedy with loot boxes that gave unfair advantages or unlocked iconic characters like Dark Vader (that otherwise would have required 40+ hours of grinding), EA effectively gave gamers a middle finger. Gamers responded by boycotting the game, and EA has written the game off as a profit loss as a result.
Loot boxes aren’t inherently bad. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the boxes, they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Rather than get mad about the “good old days,” it’s much more productive to push game companies to implement loot boxes in ways that leave the companies and consumers both happy. Overwatch is the perfect blueprint for keeping everybody happy. They offer plenty of sprays, emotes, and skins for the characters. Best of all, none of it is game changing; it’s all cosmetic. Overwatch has a very simple lesson many other games should learn from: give us cool content, but don’t ruin the game with them!