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IGDA exec warns the gaming industry to regulate itself regarding loot boxes, or else

By Polycount ยท 19 replies
Nov 30, 2018
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  1. Loot boxes are arguably one of the most controversial forms of microtransactions in modern AAA games. Some players are fine with them provided they contain only cosmetic rewards -- a la Overwatch -- whilst others despise them in any form.

    No matter where you stand on the loot box spectrum, this year's controversy surrounding the launch of EA's Star Wars: Battlefront II proved that gamers at large will not stand for "pay-to-win" microtransactions; especially not when they come in the form of randomized rewards, as the title's loot box-based "Star Cards" system did.

    The Battlefront II debacle sparked a much larger global debate about the nature of loot boxes in games.

    As a result of this debate, several countries have begun to investigate some of the most popular loot box-ridden titles -- such as NBA 2K, Overwatch, and Heroes of the Storm -- to determine whether or not their microtransaction systems run afoul of existing gambling laws.

    Belgium and the Netherlands, for example, have both banned loot boxes in select games, while other countries (including the US) are still investigating, or planning to investigate the matter.

    Naturally, government regulation is the last thing the game industry wants. However, its inability or unwillingness to police itself when it comes to loot boxes may force the situation out of their hands.

    Indeed, that's precisely what the International Game Developers Association warned the industry about in a blog post published yesterday. The post, dubbed "Call to Action: Loot Boxes," claims that recent investigations into loot boxes in games should be a "clear wake-up call" to publishers and developers everywhere.

    "By not taking significant action as an industry and global game developer community to self-regulate how loot boxes are used, we run the very real risk that governments around the world will take that action for us,"

    "By not taking significant action as an industry and global game developer community to self-regulate how loot boxes are used, we run the very real risk that governments around the world will take that action for us," writes IGDA Executive Director Jen MacLean.

    MacLean adds that such action could lead to the creation of "significantly restrictive laws" that may impact "any random reward elements" in video games.

    To remedy the situation, MacLean advises the industry to take the following steps immediately:

    • Affirm an industry commitment to not market loot boxes to children

    • Clearly disclose the odds of different rewards when purchasing loot boxes (as many games already do to comply with Chinese law)

    • Launch a coordinated education campaign that boosts awareness of the parental controls that are available to appropriately limit how players engage with games

    Only time will tell whether or not the gaming industry will follow MacLean's advice, but if EA's recent decision to fight Belgium's anti-loot box demands is anything to go by, it's not looking all that likely. If the company wins, other publishers may choose to follow suit.

    After all, loot boxes are a major source of cash for AAA game studios. Anything that jeopardizes that income will likely be rejected or heavily scrutinized.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,142   +3,565

    As usual, a bunch of stupidity when this subject is long past due for rules and regulations ......
  3. gigantor21

    gigantor21 TS Maniac Posts: 163   +221

    Wouldn't be in this mess if you were able to do that in the first place...
    Reehahs and Nobina like this.
  4. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,840   +1,351

    I don't know what is it with this "regulate yourself" garbage, it's never gonna happen. They tried it with social media and now with gaming industry. These companies have no shame and will do anything to make a profit until some regulations are put in place. Could it be that the government has no idea about gaming or internet in general? Hmm...
    Reehahs and emmzo like this.
  5. Hexic

    Hexic TS Evangelist Posts: 479   +307

    Can't think for yourself? Enter: Government.
  6. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +3,183

    This is a valid argument to a certain point. For example, that same logic could be applied to every industry including meatpacking and food products. The point of regulating is that it establishes a basic standard of quality. One would not want to have to think about which meat packer might include rat feces in their products or which brand of gram crackers doesn't include a portion of sawdust. The end of the "Can't think for yourself" logic is a government that does nothing for the people and is a very terrible place to live because you now have to question everything and everyone. It's really not so bad to live in a country where you can go to the grocery store and buy products knowing that whatever you buy won't kill you.

    As with all regulations, proceed with caution. Too much and it could hurt the gaming industry.
    Reehahs, Hexic and senketsu like this.
  7. R00sT3R

    R00sT3R TS Guru Posts: 144   +324

    Won't happen on a voluntary basis.The companies involved would rather milk it for all its worth for as long as they can before Government regulation becomes a thing.
  8. Adi6293

    Adi6293 TS Addict Posts: 148   +87

    Thats the problem with capitalism, making money isn't enough, you have to make all the money in the world and then what? Move to another planet and milk them too? I get it, its business, you have to make profit, which they do but that greed is just unbelievable.....
    senketsu likes this.
  9. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,840   +1,351

    Or that's the problem with greed in general.
    ShagnWagn and Hexic like this.
  10. With this much money at stake for the gaming companies, they will fight this battle big time both soft (educational campaign) and hard (lawsuit aka EA in Belgium)
  11. petert

    petert TS Evangelist Posts: 358   +157

    That is how capitalism works - make money whenever you can. It is not greed, it is competition - you cannot afford to leave stuff on the table, because your competitors will take it, develop themselves and overthrown you from your market segment. This is a thing many Americans don't understand - they take a foolish pride in capitalism up to a point of using socialism as an offense. But they don't understand that the main reason they lost their jobs in favour of Chinese market is their precious capitalism. The corporations found cheaper and more qualified workforce elsewhere. Ironically socialism would have protected them from that. When they actually ask the government to stop those jobs leaving the country, they are asking for a socialist policy to be enforced.
    Hexic likes this.
  12. Adi6293

    Adi6293 TS Addict Posts: 148   +87

    I am aware of how capitalism works but in the gaming industry its something else all together, literary no amount of money would be enough for them, they are already making millions upon millions and is still not enough....
  13. Hexic

    Hexic TS Evangelist Posts: 479   +307

    In all fairness, no company in the history of the world had ever said, "Well guys, we made enough money. I think we're okay now."

    One of the base principles of economics, when answering the question, "Why do you start a business?" answers as: "To make money."

    If these loot boxes were presenting potential "pay-to-win" items, ones that actually boost your stats, I'd be against it 100%, because that destroys the game mechanics. The way it is now... If it's aestheics, I couldn't care less. I choose not to buy loot boxes.

    Except for that one night where lots of booze was involved. But that was deeeeefinitely my fault....
  14. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,645   +304

    I think that there's typically a big difference between small, privately owned companies and large conglomerates. Small companies are often happy to have a steady income. Sure, more money is nice, but many small game devs will be happy to just make good games and sell them. Granted, not all of them are like that, but quite a few are.

    Big companies need to grow. When they're public, that's part of what they owe their shareholders. But I think that part of it is that when a company becomes big enough, even if by chance (had a good game), it will look for a manager who can effectively deal with that amount of money, and these people are invariably people who like money for its own sake. That's when trouble starts.
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  15. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 561   +246

    Cosmetic only = Ok.
    Pay-to-win = f* u dev.
    Reehahs and Hexic like this.
  16. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 658   +485

    What about people who want to start a non-profit business? Is the answer still "To make money."? Basically they just recycle money as they aren't looking to rip people off. :)

    Pay2Lose - yes that is a jacked up system. Gambling for sure.
    Cosmetic? Yes, it's still gambling - pull that cash handle and hope.

    I still find it odd people pay real money to dress their virtual doll up. Especially boys.
    Lots of games let you create or download your own skin for FREE. Some people are easily suckered. SMH
  17. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 828   +438

    Companies usually care about their reputation as well. They realise that being excessively greedy will force their customers to abandon them and move to the competitors. It'd be like if Samsung suddenly started charging 2,000 dollars per phone and also charged per hour of battery used. We'd all move to another Android phone maker.
    The problem in the gaming industry of course is that each game is made by only one company. So if you really want to play COD but you think it's too expensive, you have zero choices.
    So how do we, the consumer, make the companies change?
    Somehow we need to get most gamers to not buy the game. And to do that consistently to any developer/distributor who tries to overcharge their customers.
  18. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 828   +438

    Maybe we need a new rating system:
    A base score of 100 if the game is free, 90 if it's a one-off price that is reasonable, 80 if it's a one-off price that is unreasonable.
    And then for every way it charges more, like loot boxes, monthly subscription, season pass, cosmetic microtransactions, etc, deduct a further 10 off the base score. For pay2win, deduct 20.
    And encourage people to only buy games that score 90 or higher.
    Reehahs likes this.
  19. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,645   +304

    True, but cost is usually not something that kills a company's reputation. People have no problem paying as long as they feel it's justified. That's why micropayment in particular work so well, because some people are more willing to pay than others, and are willing to pay for things others won't pay for.
  20. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,757   +1,149

    I don't see the issue, you need to learn about bad practices and impulse control. On the other hand if you like it and you are willing to spend the money, who is anyone to tell you what to do.

    The disclosure on rewards % would be great though.
    Hexic likes this.

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