Pros & Cons of Loot Boxes in Games

Loot boxes are a part of nearly every game these days. Now, whether you play esports games or engage recreationally in titles such as FIFA, Dota 2 or CS:GO, you have certainly seen a loot box. This digital container has one very simple purpose – to provide players with an opportunity to win a cosmetic item that will in some way help them stand out from the scores of other players.

Above all else, loot boxes have been a divisive topic. Some have called them gambling and have insisted that they are completely removed from the games. Others, including game developers, have been happy to comply with regulations – such as these are – but haven’t completely pulled off the loot boxes.

Instead, they have displayed the percentages that a certain box has to drop a certain item. Well, to this date everyone has their own opinion about loot boxes, but we take an objective look at what they bring to the table and whether their existence is a bad thing.

Support the Game You Love, But the Occasional Loot Box

We all do it. Whether it’s by a monthly subscription or pay for the occasional skin to change our character into. In essence, loot boxes are a symbolic way to support the artistic creativity of the developers and make sure that the game you love stays the same way.

When it comes to an online game, support and maintenance costs developers a small fortune. You may not realize this, but after the purchase, every second of online game time is guaranteed by the work of hundreds of people, and that will take resources – both in terms of time and finances.

Plus, let’s face it. Loot boxes have some very interesting solutions to offer to gamers from all over the place. While these solutions will be purely cosmetics, some games have experimented with boosting the gameplay as well.

Those are the digital trade card games, such as Hearthstone and of course, Magic: The Gathering. Interestingly enough, MTG and Hearthstone are not blamed for promoting gambling, the same way playing online roulette is not considered to be an activity that has a negative downside.

Instead, MTG and Hearthstone are embraced for their model – which is one that relies on loot boxes, and in this case ‘packs of cards,’ to advance a player in the game.

The Legality of the Matter

We have established that loot boxes are a topic that usually drives a wedge between lawmakers, players and developers. Therefore, we can expect to find certain differences of opinion when it comes to the legality of loot boxes.

The legal status of loot boxes is mostly linked to the geographical region in which the issue is brought up. Therefore, countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium have ruled against loot boxes, asking developers such as EA to completely withdraw them from their games – at least on the territory of the countries.

Meanwhile, Australia has equated loot boxes to a form of gambling, but then again, the United Kingdom’s gaming regulator has said that they are not necessarily so. So far as the legality of the matter goes, the issue is still one that brings out different opinions to the table.

Epic Games Withdraws Loot Boxes, Apex Legends Relies on Them

This about covers the pros and cons of using loot boxes in games. Evidently, loot boxes can bring a lot of extra profit to the developers. However, this shouldn’t be mistaken as greed. Studios want to continue and maintain their games on the level that the community expects from them.

However, generating a profit out of a game past its sale-point often proves difficult. The free-to-play model is taking precedence instead, which allows developers to use the micro-transactions model to turn a good amount of cash.

Meanwhile, some developers have taken the issue more seriously, deciding to completely opt out of the argument and not allow loot boxes to threaten the future of their games. Epic Games, the creator of the massively popular Fortnite battle royale game, has said that it would withdraw all loot boxes from across every game the company owns.

Conversely, EA’s Apex Legends – another battle royale game – has said nothing of the sort. Instead, EA expects to continue using loot boxes in its games. The developer briefly refused to follow up with Dutch and Belgian authorities’ decisions to withdraw their loot boxes from the company’s games in the respective countries as well.

It’s understandable why EA would be reluctant to do so when in games such as FIFA, the ‘loot boxing’ system generates the company millions worth of profits. This is a sustainable model that would be difficult to replicate.

Ten Ton Hammer would like to thank Andrew B for their guest editorial. 

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Last Updated: Sep 18, 2019

About The Author

Lewis is a long standing journalist, who freelances to a variety of outlets.