Loot boxes have infested gaming, their glorified and barely hidden gambling is becoming a scourge on modern gaming. In the same way that predatory microtransactions rooted in poor design have infected the mobile gaming market, loot boxes are just a way for greedy companies to bilk more money out of consumers. Lets be clear, I’m not talking about purely cosmetic loot boxes like that of Overwatch. I’m talking specifically about the instances where game mechanics and progression are designed intentionally around forcing the player to weigh the value of their time grinding versus paying real money for progress.
This contention has been a huge source of controversy for Middle Earth: Shadow of War, which includes an “optional” market for Legendary Orcs and items that can be bought with real world money. There’s no buying the thing you want directly, you just have to hope that you get the Orcs or items you will eventually need to beat the game. And yes, the best ending in the game depends on getting at least one if not multiple high-end drops. And this is where the “optional” part comes in, you can use these loot boxes as a potential source of expediency, or grind for hours with tedious side-missions. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the game will be teasing you with the RMT option the whole way through like some mutated merchant selling literal crap. Keep in mind that Shadow of War is a singleplayer game with this dreck shoveled into it.
But not content to merely achieve a similar level of crumminess, Electronic Arts have one-upped the Shadow of War system and forgone the loot boxes being optional item upgrades altogether.
UPDATE: The loot crate system shown in the beta turned out to be incomplete, not all progression is locked behind these crates. Read more here.
Instead of a meaningful progression system like other FPS games, Star Wars Battlefront 2 uses loot drops as the only delivery method for ANYTHING in the game.
Character abilities, or Star Cards, are inside these crates, as well as class weapons and items. Abilities like Bobba Fetts Death From Above which grants him damage reduction while jetpacking and using Rocket Barrage. That’s locked inside a crate that you’ll either have to grind for or pay up to get.
But EA isn’t content with this, oh no. Not only did they stuff in Emotes and Cosmetic skins, they also have four tiers to INDIVIDUAL FLIPPING STAR CARDS.
Death from Above’s lowest tier damage reduction (bronze) is 50 per cent, and it’s highest tier 100 per cent. That’s a huge difference.
Star Card abilities in Battlefront 2 change not only how regular Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist soldier classes play – as well as Interceptor, Bomber and Fighter spaceship classes – they also change how Battle Point-unlocked power-up characters play, all the way up to the iconic Heroes and Villains of Star Wars lore.
So expect to either spend the rest of your life grinding for currency in Battlefront 2, or expect to spend far more than the $60 price tag on freaking loot boxes, hoping that you get the Star Cards you need for your characters. No prices for these loot boxes have been announced yet, but expect there to be some ludicrously overpriced “value” bundles that cost several times more than the base game.
EA did seemingly expect that this would be an issue, so they hand every player starter crates with basic weapons and skills for each class. Although the system still screams pay-to-win to anyone with a functioning brain.
But what does OpenCritic have to do with all this? Well, they’re hoping to become the first major review aggregator to openly display how a monetization model will affect a given game.
We’re going to take a stand against loot boxes. We’re looking into ways to add business model information to OpenCritic.
— OpenCritic (@Open_Critic) October 9, 2017
As you can see in the tweet above, the site is currently exploring ways to add business model information. It continues, providing more details:
– Exclusively paid vs can be acquired in game
– Prompts during gameplay vs dedicated store
– 100% unlock completion time with no payment
— OpenCritic (@Open_Critic) October 9, 2017
No matter where you come down on loot boxes and their various implementations, more information about a game’s business model would be great. It will be interesting to see where this goes.