Originally in my eyes trading card packs were the first “loot crates”. Mysterious packets of shiny material that would guarantee a shiny special card and a ton of garbage. It was essentially lighthearted gambling and harmless collecting. Companies clearly saw it differently as a cynical way to get people to pay for card with pretty pictures on it. It feels like over the years that simply joy of trading cards has been refined into gambling for data. Gambling with even worse odds in video games as you aren’t even guaranteed the original “shiny”, the duplicates are just standard (because they always were so you’re ok with them right?) and it’s another excuse to implement a currency system in a full priced game (and voila microtransactions to).
Loot Crates. Can you remember a time when they were a good idea? Chances are if you do it’s not the system you remember fondly but the moment of “winning” something from the draw. Do you remember when the concept of a “loot crate” in a videogame was new and original? No? There’s a good reason for that.
So for a bit of history; I love card games. Konami has had plenty of my money in YuGiOh cards over the years and I tend to play any card game that comes out, I even once paid real money for .hack card games. However I’ve been noticing as time goes on card games seem to becoming the defacto zombie game with even the big Valve announcement simply being a card game based off DOTA2 and more and more companies are trying their hand at the genre although with varying success. Anyways that’s not really the topic here, more a small amble to explain how I see a ‘loot crate’ in it’s purest form.
Blizzard always seem to do no wrong in the eyes of the many. I’m inclined to agree that sometimes they can get the systems ethically right. Games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm are the two that spring to mind. Free to play base games that you can specialise how you want to play and craft the other stuff. The ‘hook’ of course being you’ve already invested in the title so you’ll keep plugging for more stuff. They aren’t above reproach though with titles like Full Priced game Overwatch having possibly the worst loot crate system of any. Allowing duplicates, a ridiculous amount of nonsense items and plug for the ‘shiny’ items that even if you do get are very unlikely to be the skin of choice.
I don’t think as a system Loot Crates are evil, it’s just like the Season Pass and Day1 DLC they have been used to the point where now they aren’t a good sign (a bit like Steam Early Access). Some games could have used them to great advantages and Street Fighter 5 springs to mind (which is ironic given it’s release). The game is a crazy grind but if you had an ethically balanced loot crate system (at a really low price for fight money and Not real money) even in this ‘full priced game’ (that’s another issue for another day) I would be in to that, a decent balance of grind to payoff. Still this is the problem and the fundamental issue with all lootcrates. They would be real money bundles, or worth the same as a new character because companies want all of your money.
After your purchase, your season pass, your pre-order dlc and your merch there is still a need for publishers to make more money. It’s not to help the game or it’s developers it’s to help the publishers (and if you start defending company practices from the likes of Warner Bros I hope you work for them), to simply help them profit from you. This is what the systems are all boiling down to sadly and people like Jim Stirling have been right on the money with this since they stared to creep in everywhere. It’s all about all the money. How to get as much money as possible from anyone for as long as possible, otherwise it’s cast aside as ‘disappointing’.
Until we start looking at videogames differently, until the whales stop defending corporations as if they were religions, this is unlikely to stop.
Still at least I can enjoy Shadow of War….