Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes

Discussion in 'HardForum Tech News' started by Armenius, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. Armenius

    Armenius I Drive Myself to the [H]ospital

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    Over the past few days the Federal Trade Commission has been holding panels with industry representatives and consumer advocates to discuss the issues with loot boxes and potential solutions to consumer concerns. During one panel, several game companies represented by the Entertainment Software Association announced that they will require odd disclosures on all their games starting in 2020, including Sony and Microsoft gamesindustry.biz reports.

    https://www.gamesindustry.biz/artic...microsoft-to-require-loot-box-odds-disclosure

    Entertainment Software Association chief counsel of tech policy Michael Warnecke announced the news this morning at the Federal Trade Commission's Inside the Game workshop on the loot box issue. The comments came after Warnecke recapped the industry's previous attempts to address loot box concerns: an in-game purchases label on retail titles and platform-level spending controls on consoles and the EA Origin PC storefront.

    "That said, we are doing more," Warnecke said. "I'm pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform. Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features. And it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.

    "As well, many of the leading video game publishers of the Entertainment Software Association have decided that they are going to implement a similar approach at the publisher level to provide consumers this information and give them enhanced information to make purchase decisions."

    In an update to the above article, a list of those companies participating in disclosure and those notables who are not is provided.

    Update: The ESA has provided more details on the loot box disclosures, saying that platform holders are targeting to implement them in 2020. The trade group released a list of its member companies that have pledged to release loot box disclosure odds on all new games by the end of 2020. That list includes Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast.

    Some notable ESA member publishers who haven't made such a commitment include 505 Games, Capcom, CI Games, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive Studios, Epic Games, Focus Home Interactive, Gearbox Publishing, GungHo, Intellivision Entertainment, Kalypso, Konami, Magic Leap, NCsoft, Natsume, Nexon, Rebellion, Riot Games, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Nordic, Tencent, and Marvelous.

    Consumer advocates from Consumer Reports, the National Council on Problem Gambling, and Common Sense Media shot back at both the ESA and ESRB the following day, arguing that odds disclosures was not enough.

    https://www.gamesindustry.biz/artic...rb-ftc-loot-box-odds-disclosure-is-not-enough

    That wasn't good enough for Consumer Reports' director of financial policy Anna Laitin. Her presentation came second, and centered on the argument that the goal of microtransactions in general, including loot boxes, is for people to purchase them, and that companies will use "subtle tactics" to manipulate players into buying more of them. Because of that, she said, simply letting consumers know that the purchases exist in a game isn't enough.

    "There's a label for 'in-game purchases,' and that can mean a huge range of things. That's everything from, 'You can buy a new character when it's released,' to 'We have surprise loot boxes.' A whole, wide range. I know when I look at a game, there's a lot more detail that consumers need to understand how they might be presented with the option to spend money."

    ...

    Next up was Keith S. Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). He opened by noting the many similarities between loot boxes and gambling, specifically slot machines, saying that "whether or not loot boxes meet criteria for a gambling device in a particular jurisdiction, and whether or not players recognize or understand the risks, additional consumer protection features must be put in place to prevent users from developing gambling problems."

    That protection, he said, was especially important for high-risk groups such as men, youth, and active military as well as veterans, all of whom statistically have higher risks of gambling addiction. Whyte noted that the issues go both ways, with problem gamblers being more inclined to make in-app purchases, as well as people who make in-app purchases potentially being more likely to take up gambling.

    ...

    Last to speak was Ariel Fox Johnson, senior counsel for policy and privacy at Common Sense Media. She began by focusing in on the issues with children playing games with microtransactions included, noting that especially young children are still learning to differentiate between play money and real money -- something that is made even more challenging when games obfuscate how much things really cost. Even when the transaction amount is clear, other factors such as the relative lack of friction to make such a purchase or the fact that the dollar amounts appear small ($0.99 purchases made many times as opposed to one very large purchase once) can confuse or trick children into spending more than they intend, or without thinking.

    Johnson highlighted known tactics used by companies as well to get children to spend more money, such as using matchmaking to pair older players with younger players, who would then spend money to better compete with the older players. Or, in another example, having characters on-screen appear to be upset when children do not make an in-game purchase.

    Both articles are quite extensive and definitely worth the read. The second article highlights compelling arguments for those who have been vehemently defending the business practice of loot boxes since they don't technically fit the legal definition of gambling.
     
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  2. ManofGod

    ManofGod [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I have no issues with loot boxes but, that is because I either do not play game with them or do not really play online anymore. To all others, my condolences. :D
     
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  3. SomeoneElse

    SomeoneElse [H]ard|Gawd

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    The problem with this practice isn't really based in gambling addiction its based on the fact they build in barriers that can only be passed through paying. The fact that they can make it hard for you to play the full game even after you paid (in most cases) full price for the game the the slimy part of all this. If they sold the games for cheaper then it wouldn't feel so bad. Its like all of these crappy free-to-play mobile games.....
     
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  4. schoolslave

    schoolslave Gawd

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    The games industry is a fucking cesspool at this point -- not the developers, but the social engineering, monetization, and bean-counting bullshit.
     
  5. DrDoU

    DrDoU 2[H]4U

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    Every excuse they can make they will use to pad their pocket. Customers are just a after thought.the scumbags that do this have the share holders breathing down their backs or they loose their 30 million dollar bonus.screw them
     
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  6. SomeoneElse

    SomeoneElse [H]ard|Gawd

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    Yea this is some moral grey area they are sitting in. In the end its just plain greed.
     
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  7. MavericK

    MavericK Zero Cool

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    I would encourage anyone interested in this topic to watch Jim's video on this (he's done MANY videos on it, but this is sort of the "big" one):

     
  8. purple_monster

    purple_monster Gawd

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    so, like, did you actually read any part of the references or even a small section of the post? im guessing you arent a child or part of any of the groups listed as at risk when comparing loot boxes to gambling.
     
  9. ManofGod

    ManofGod [H]ardForum Junkie

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    You misunderstand, I am referring to personal issues.
     
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  10. Brian_B

    Brian_B 2[H]4U

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    The developers/distributors/etc wouldn't do it if they weren't making money.
     
  11. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Right, free-to-pay casino-style loot boxes and "gotta collect all the stupid skins for money" are the reason the industry is making record amounts of bank, but it's also making crunch time 24/7 at most game companies...because SOMEONE has to make all this shit, but it has to be UNIQUE.

    The fallout from this is, because most devs are salaried, and are forced to work unpaid overtime, game developers are seriously looking at unionizing for the first time. That is how fucking toxic the free to pay game environment has become: the hiring , six-month crunch and firing that has pervaded for the last twenty years was just fine...but free-to-pay with newer-ending crunch? APPARENTLY, NO SIR, that's enough!

    I can't fucking wait for regulation to nip this in the ass. It's the worst thing to ever happen to the games industry, and I'm sure it will have fallout as devs burn-out even earlier than normal. Imagine how crappy the content will be if nothing changes and they have to go with Team B or C for a whole lot more AAA games?
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  12. Algrim

    Algrim [H]ard|Gawd

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    I'm helping regulate the industry by not purchasing any games that have loot boxes or DLC. If the game requires additional payments to work as expected after the initial payment, I don't care to support it...
     
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  13. M76

    M76 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It's easy to solve: Any games that have ingame purchases should be automatically rated R / Adults Only.
     
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  14. seanreisk

    seanreisk Gawd

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    Any time the gaming industry says they are 'implementing solutions' and are 'planning to do more', they are telling you they are willing to do any form of meaningless gesture to placate you. The only proper implementation is 'we are removing all items purchased with real money because you already paid for the game.'

    I think a modest solution would be to sell the game for $59.00, and at that price the player has the ability to get all the items in the game through the course of play, or sell the game for $10.99 with loot boxes, and once your loot box investment + game price hits a total of $65.00 you get everything anyway.

    I've thought about this a lot. I have a few ideas that I believe would curb the industry's desire for loot boxes, but they all involve vigilantism, vandalism, parking lot counseling and prison-style quality time.
     
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  15. Trimlock

    Trimlock [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Loot box's or micro payments have eradicated my interest in gaming recently. It seems that a lot of the good games have this mentality that they suck you in, then difficulty sky rockets and the only way to advance without spending lots of time or effort is to do a micro payment. Fck artificially gimping games.
     
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  16. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Oh yeah, it really seems that easy. Until you realize that the ESRB is owned and run by the US game industry, and has no interest in expanding the depth of it's AO ratings.

    Adult-only is the console game curse of death in this puritan-run country full of idiots. Why would they voluntarily kill hundreds of high-grossing titles?

    Which is why I said in my post that we need real regulations to shut this mess down. Until then, they're just distracting you from the core issues with bullshit "voluntary" changes that aren't actually changes.

    Unions will help, but they are only a necessary piece of the puzzle (will set max amounts of time spent on a free-to-pay game development crunch). It still leaves the door wide open for game companies to keep making new free to pay games.

    The MPAA's voluntary rating system works because there's no interactive lootboxes to buy, nor DLCs required for you to view the second half of the movie you just paid for. The gaming industry is almost the same as electronic gambling, and needs the same regulations.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  17. M76

    M76 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Why is it better to create completely new regulation trying to control the mess that is lootboxes, that publishers will only weasel their way around anyway? Just create a regulation that requires them to rate games with purchases R.
     
  18. Flogger23m

    Flogger23m [H]ardForum Junkie

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    The question is does R even matter? Plenty of kids buy R rated games and in the US it comes down to store policy to prohibit them for kids. But most kids just get their parents to buy them or the store just doesn't care and sells the game anyways. And with most people buying online now that point is fairly moot. I can't see it affecting sales at all.

    Adult Only might make an impact as consoles don't allow those games last time I checked. But then you have the issues brought up above.
     
  19. XvMMvX

    XvMMvX [H]ard|Gawd

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    The game industry screwed themselves. NES games were regularly $60 in the 80's and SNES games were $75 plus. Games are cheaper now based on the value of a $1 than they ever have been. They failed to raise prices when their costs went up due to more sophisticated programing, graphics, etc.

    Now they are stuck with a customer base of babies who want to pay bargain bin prices for a game and want continual support, servers, and content forever.

    Loot boxes or a game that requires further money after a set purchase price were terrible decisions.

    F2P with cosmetics, passes, etc are the future. Am I the only one that remembers having to pay $2 for a complete game of NBA Jam?

    Damn.... Didn't even get to page two before Trump was at fault for loot boxes. You have a very poor understanding of what market players want regulation. Hint... it is actually the large powerful corporations (EA, Activision, etc) because they are the only ones who can afford to follow the regulations.

    All regulations do is make it cost prohibitive for new players to enter the market.
     
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  20. SecretStash

    SecretStash Limp Gawd

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    I really want the government to nuke loot boxes from orbit, but what will likely happen instead will be some monstrous bill that will make life no better for consumers (possibly worse) and definitely worse for small gaming devs.
     
  21. M76

    M76 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    That's the exact point. By making these games AO, it forces publishers to back off lootboxes or ingame purchases or face huge restrictions on their game's penetration.
     
  22. M76

    M76 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Of course you have to create a law, but it would be more effective and infinitely easier to create law that requires games with in-game purchases to be Adult only. Instead of trying to go into details of lootboxes and micro-regulate it, wasting a ton of effort on something that will be filled with loopholes thanks to lobbyists.
     
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  23. daphatgrant

    daphatgrant Moderator Staff Member

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    Alright everyone, let's keep it civil and on topic.
     
  24. lostin3d

    lostin3d [H]ard|Gawd

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    Thanks Armenius for posting this. Nice having so much info in one place and definitely on my radar.
     
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  25. GoodBoy

    GoodBoy [H]ard|Gawd

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    All they need to do is make is so that you can buy the exact in-game cosmetic that you want, get rid of Random reward loot boxes purchased with real money.

    Random shit from in-game work, fine.

    Selling better weapons of weapon upgrades, i.e. Pay-to-win, i think hurts a game, and few like it.

    Selling cosmetics is fine.