Loot boxes have long been the origin of some division between gamers, state legislations, companies, and parent units. Review aggregator OpenCritic has revealed plans to now flag games that utilize loot boxes. Are these bad for the esports potential of video games, though?
Going Free to Play with a Side Dish of Loot Boxes
Recently, SuperData revealed that free-to-play titles generated the bulk of all gaming revenue in 2018. All of these games had microtransactions in place and of the 10 top earners, 4 were esports titles, to name Fortnite, League of Legends, Honor of Kings, and Clash Royale.
While microtransactions are considered a candid way of generating revenue and allowing players to procure a new set of virtual goodies, loot boxes have been slightly more contentious. In places like Belgium and the Netherlands, loot boxes are banned.
The UK Gambling Commission, a national watchdog overseeing the gambling industry, addiction, and all related segments thereof, issued a comprehensive study in which it also noted that there was an increased use of loot boxes.
Unlike the Australian Government, though, the UKGC is not entirely convinced that loot boxes are harmful. In fact, the Commission issued a statement to refute reports that it had said so in the original survey.
Everyone’s an OpenCritic
Moving forward, review aggregator OpenCritic will make notice of games that utilize loot boxes or similar mechanics. The independent reviewing service has aligned with the Australia’s view of the digital containers, i.e. loot boxes have a negative impact on the gaming experience.
Loot boxes prey on human’s generally poor ability to accurately understand and internalize probabilities, especially at the extremes. Rather than offer in-game items directly, loot boxes are used to mask the underlying cost of extremely attractive items.
In word, OpenCritic believes that loot boxes are akin to gambling and that player attitude towards these objects can be liken to gambling, with all its inherent risks of spending over one’s purchasing power and developing an addictive behavior.
OpenCritic has used a list of criteria, such as Unknown, Random Rewards, Monetization, and Encouraged Use, to establish whether a game is designed to incentivize players into purchasing the in-game goods.
How and Does it Affect Esports?
Loot boxes are unlikely to affect esports as such, although they can have a negative impact on companies. In 2016, CS:GO developer Valve was faced with a string of lawsuits for the company’s alleged facilitation of underage gambling.
By allowing CS:GO Lounge and a few other marketplaces trading in skin, lawyers believed that Valve had lefts itself legally vulnerable, Bloomberg explained in a detailed breakdown of the gaming industry.
The skin betting market was on track to hit $16 billion based on a report by Narus Advisors / Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. After initial adjusting of the figures, the skin betting market seems to be back in action and on track to hit $22 billion by 2022.
Apex Legends’ Own Loot
Apex Legends managed to pull 2.5 million players in 24 hours. The Titanfall-inspired game uses loot boxes that can be either paid for or grinded for. Given the immense potential of the game, the in-game transaction system can be overlooked.
It would be interesting to see if it would have any bearing on competitive play, providing Apex Legends ever makes it as an esports title.