Games’ Kinder Egg, ‘loot boxes’ spark debate over ethics in industry – 06/09/2022 – Tec

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The gaming industry is known for coming up with ever more creative ways to increase its profits. Microtransactions, subscription services, selling ads… almost everything has already been tested at various scales. But the monetization strategy stands out for its effectiveness, as well as the criticism it receives: “loot boxes” or “reward boxes”.

“Loot boxes” are a kind of Kinder Egg of virtual games. Generally, when you win or buy one, you have no idea what’s inside. Only after opening will you know whether you won the item you wanted or the item you already have and don’t care about.

It is easy to see why they are so profitable. The game features several rare or collectible items that can be purchased by purchasing one of these “Lot Boxes”. The player is then encouraged to buy several of these items to find the desired virtual object, like a child buying dozens of packs of stickers to complete the album to find the one missing one. When a rare item also helps a player gain an edge in multiplayer competition, the appeal becomes even greater.

For all these reasons, the practice is a constant target of ethical questions, especially when used in children’s and adolescents’ play.

“If you’re using loot boxes with an emotional aspect, you’re conditioning [as pessoas a comprá-las]. If you implement loot boxes or pressure your game to buy them and you have a lot of kids and teenagers playing, it becomes a bit problematic because it’s harder for them to control their emotions.” Celia Hodent in an interview at Devcom, a Gamescom side event that took place last month in Germany.

Launched this June, “Diablo Immortal” is one of the games that will bet on this strategy as a form of monetization. The game is free for PC and mobile devices, yet two months after its launch, game developer Blizzard announced that the title had reached US$100 million (R$524 million) in revenue. This is because of the infamous “loot boxes”.

Strategy is not only in free games. Electronic Arts, the developer of the “FIFA” series of games, is also known for using and abusing strategy, even in paid games. In your soccer game, for example, it is possible to purchase athlete packs in the “FUT” (Fifa Ultimate Team) mode, in which the player is encouraged to assemble the best team to face other players.

It’s hard to know exactly how much the companies benefit from this particular type of transaction, but a report filed by Electronic Arts with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last year can give you an idea.

  • According to the website Gamesindustry.biz, the document showed that the company collected about US$1.62 billion (R$8.48 billion) from the Ultimate Team mode across all its sports game franchises, corresponding to about 30% of the company’s entire revenue. period.

Criticism of this monetization system is mainly due to the lack of transparency from companies about the chances of getting a rare item when buying a “loot box”. The system is often constructed in such a vague and complex manner that it is very difficult to understand the probabilities involved.

Trying to figure this out, New Zealand streamer Quin69 decided to do an experiment. He bought loot boxes in Diablo Immortal until he got a five-star gem, one of the rarest items in the game. He received the item only after spending about NZ$25,000, the equivalent of R$80,000, and then destroyed it in protest. Inspired by the experience, a fan of the game created a website where players can test their luck and find out how much they would spend to get the same item.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Blizzard president Mike Ybarra defended the monetization strategy. He claimed that this was a way the company had found to get more people to access the game, stressing that the paid part of the game only becomes important at the end. “The philosophy has always been about gameplay and making sure millions of people could play the entire campaign without paying anything,” he said.

  • In an email to the newspaper, the company also said that only a small percentage of players spend any money on in-game items, but did not disclose the numbers.

The explanation failed to convince Brendan Sinclair, editor of the website GameIndustry.biz. In an article posted on the site, he questions the companies’ lack of transparency, particularly about who the customers are who buy the “Lot Boxes” and fund this business strategy.

“A game like ‘Diablo Immortal’ is not made for the 99.5% who want to play for free, because it can’t be. The players who are part of the first 1% of the community,” he said.

The inclusion of very similar gambling mechanisms in games has led some countries to create laws restricting the use of “lott boxes”. Belgium and the Netherlands are the places with the most restrictive laws in this regard – by the way, Diablo Immortal has not officially launched in these countries because it does not comply with local laws.

There is no specific legislation on this subject in Brazil. Still, Anced (the National Association of Child and Adolescent Advocacy Centers) filed seven public civil lawsuits last February against gaming industry giants for selling “loot boxes” in games aimed at kids and teens. In April 2021, the Public Ministry expressed a positive opinion on the actions.


game

Game tip, new or old, for you to check out

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

(Nintendo 64)

I recently returned to Ocarina of Time, a game available through the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service. The game is a classic and one of the first action RPGs I’ve ever played, but I was afraid that almost 25 years after its release, it might have “aged badly”. In fact, it takes time to adapt the fixed camera style of the time and the unique button layout of the Nintendo 64 controller for the Switch. But once those initial hurdles are overcome, the nostalgia kicks in and it’s impossible not to get excited about this classic.


Update

News, launches, business and other things that matter

  • Ubisoft has confirmed that the next game in the Assassin’s Creed series will be called Mirage. According to Bloomberg’s early information, the game was originally conceived as an expansion of “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” and will feature the assassin Bassim, a secondary character in the game based on the Viking culture, as the protagonist.
  • Speaking of Ubisoft’s franchise, “Assassin’s Creed: Origins,” a chapter inspired by ancient Egypt, and “Deathloop” will enter the Playstation Plus catalog in September. Subscribers will also be able to download “Need for Speed ​​​​Heat” and indie “Toem” for free this month.
  • In a post published on Microsoft’s official blog, Phil Spencer, the CEO of the company’s games division, said that it plans to include games from Activision Blizzard franchises such as “Overwatch”, “Diablo” and “Call” in the Xbox Game Pass catalog. Acting” after the completion of the acquisition of the company. The CEO also confirmed that he is ready to release games from the “Call of Duty” series for PlayStation consoles on the same date that the titles will be released on Xbox.
  • Sony has announced the acquisition of Savage Game Studios to form a newly formed mobile games division that will operate independently of console games. According to the company, the studio is already working on a “live service” for mobile devices for the action game, which has yet to be announced to the public.
  • French studio Quantic Dream, known for narrative adventure games like “Detroit: Become Human” and “Heavy Rain,” has been bought by China’s NetEase (which developed “Diablo Immortal” in partnership with Blizzard) for an undisclosed sum. In an interview with Gameindustry.biz, Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondamier said that despite the acquisition, the studio will maintain editorial independence.
  • Brazilian developer Aquiris has released “Horizon Chase 2,” a sequel to the game inspired by the racing games of the 1990s. The title will launch on Apple Arcade, Apple’s game subscription service, on September 9. PC and console versions are also planned for next year.

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