We Discuss Loot Boxes, Dirty Airport Floors on Waypoint Radio


I haven’t finished the podcast yet, but after Rob’s stating his suspicion that the people most complaining about this are the same people putting their money into I had to stop. This sentiment makes me furious and knocks Rob’s credibility down a couple notches for me.

At my lowest point, working part-time at minimum wage, only surviving by living with my parents. I bought 10 lottery tickets a week. I hated my life, was terribly depressed and that terrible hope and crash of disappointment twice a week did not help. Looking back, that was one of the most damaging things to my mental state at that time and when I realized I had that addictive tendency to gambling. That is just a money hole, and the rise of gambling in video games is one of the most insidious things I seen.

To claim that loot boxes aren’t gambling is naive, the point of gambling from the “house” is to get the consumer to buy in regularly with the lowest possible expense and effort on the part of the “house”. These loot boxes cost the companies next to nothing to produce, just extra art assets and minor scripting changes, and in exchange rake in millions. They are implanting gambling addictions into the most impressionable. Yes, there is an amount of blame to be laid at the person who buys in, but the facilitation and outright encouragement of that addiction is even worse. This trend is creating a generation of gambling addicts and it needs to stop. This hands-washing of blaming the addict is disgusting.


BTW, do you think we all should get a medal, for not saying something like “it robbed me the wrong way”? As in “Rob” and “robbery”? No? OK.


Sorry. Trying not to “Achtually” you. But you get a set FE car every time you win a championship cup. The prize for winning the first cup is a Subaru BRZ FE edition with a 15% bonus and I think 10,000 extra credits every time you race on Long Beach. You can get those cars without engaging in the loot box system. And Forza 7 is a very weird situatiuon where the community is up in arms about said VIP bonus. But the Credits system is weighted in a way that if you are a series veteran and know how mods worked in the previous game that you can earn back the 20,000cr mod box seven times over in about 15 minutes. It’s actually way less stingy than Horizon 3. It’s a weird situation that I’m not sure has fully shaken out yet. Especially because Turn 10’s been very hands off including letting people post guides in the forums on how to totally max out your credits.

(Also am I really that old that I remember the rubber band and auto accelerator trick from GT3 A-Spec that earned you mountains of money on that Super Speedway endurance race? Deja Vu, I’ve been in this place before…)

Jim has started hiding the same sort of rhetoric TB spouts behind a facial youtube show. There’s a point where customers should be vocal. But commanding the angry mob to start chanting “Greedy Cocksucksers” at publishers during a time when developers and people involved in the industry are saying harassment is stopping them from speaking candidly about development. But it’s OK, he’s on neogaf (Itself a toxic cesspit) where people are “Better”, he says the right things on twitter despite being the proto-Milkshake Duck only 5 years back, thank god for him, etc

But the main problem is just that you need customers to vote with their wallets. Handing regulation to some of the most inept and authotarian government administrations of all time. Especially in the US where the people in charge are nowhere near video game fans and would chomp at the bit to start putting authotarian measures in to ban violent video games and censor content? Holy shit that is an awful idea. We were lucky to get an ESRB in the first place as publishers practically forced Nintendo and Sega to that meeting in New York to form it. Demanding regulation of gambling systems would throw the ESRB to the wolves in government. Goodbye freedom of speech in games.

Calling developers “Greedy Cocksuckers”? That makes devs and publishers close ranks even further because why would you listen to a person insulting you to your face. That goes for business. The customer is not always right and you reserve the right to not listen to them if they are being an unreasonable ass. Especially since “Gamers” will throw toddler like temper tantrums and go with their old favourite tactics like Harssment and Doxxing to anyone they deem unpure.

You have to push them to vote with their wallets. And the problem is if customers not in our hobbyist sphere of influence don’t have issues with it. Well then we have to figure out how do you get to them without being condescending and threatening while being informative. Because everything so far in the “fight” against lootboxes has been a terrible shtshow.


I don’t believe in free market. We got some pressure from EU and Australia govs, iirc, and now we have refunds on Steam. So.

But, mostly I agree. Yes, we need to vote with our wallets. And, yes, people who say that often do that for a wrong reason, in a bad way, or both. And that’s maybe more harmful than not saying anything.


Concerning aesthetics as they relate to this/microtransactions/DLC/et al, frankly i’m always wary of thinking about those transactions as ineffectual because they concern something that is immaterial to gameplay, because it seems to be that how players choose to dress their avatars is an integral part of their experience, thus of material consequence in how they interact with the game. Honestly i’m more upset by Overwatch putting skins behind loot boxes than an AC game having weapon drops from loot boxes or whatever else that could be described as “making the game easier”.


One distinction I want to make regarding the subject is one of “loot boxes as a potential degradation of value in a consumer product” and “loot boxes as publishers playing with fire in utilizing mechanics which abuse people who have addictive tendencies”.

Because woo boy I sure see a lot of people who are primarily interested in the former, but use the latter as a means of point-scoring in the pursuit of ~consumer rights~.

I don’t believe the Waypoint staff have any interest in trying to diminish the argument that these types of DLC represent a potential abuse vector for people like me with poor self-control, but it’s absolutely an angle that they should do a better job of covering rather than just calling out consumerist jackoffs on Reddit/GAF or wherever.


So here’s the thing about my FM7 story:

It’s not that people have conflicted views or that people who pay shouldn’t be able to voice concerns. That’s not where I’m coming down on this at all.

They demanded the devs add more Pay 2 Win in.

Flat out, rather than saying this stuff is all exploitative trash and breaks the game design, they demanded the Pay 2 Win they expected would be in the game and they would pay extra was put back in. So loudly that within 48 hours of the game being released, the devs had agreed to put that coin doubler back into the game for people who pay them that extra $20. On top of the existing Pay 2 Win part of that VIP package they’d still not removed (FE cars you don’t get from the career mode and are otherwise locked behind extremely low odds drops).

How are we meant to get devs to remove that stuff from games if rolling any of it back comes with such a backlash (from people who also claim this stuff is bad in general) as to make it impossible to stick?


Maybe I misread your example, but it’s just sound like that they want what they already bought. Which is understandable. Maybe not pretty, but understandable. And devs screwd up twice: by puting P2W in the first place, and then, after people paid, removing it.

In my story, I acknowledge that I engage in a pay2win to some extend, but complain then they introduce more of it, in a more exploitative way. And I feel like my argument is still valid, despite me being (kinda) part of a problem. Also, I never actually complained (well, maybe to my friends), I just stopped playing it (voted with me wallet), but that’s beside the point.

But, again, that’s not what Rob was talking about. Or at least as I understand it. For me it was: people who complain about it the loudest, still gonna go and buy it all, so it’s not really an issue and blah-blah-blah. And, as I said, it’s not the first time he dismisses it, so maybe I’m bringing baggage from other podcasts here.


Something that I found disappointing about this discussion that hasn’t yet been discussed* is about the wider causes of microtransations in games. I think Waypoint could have used this to put a greater emphasis on the fact that issues with DLC, microtransactions, pre-orders, special editions, etc… come from an industry trying to catch up in revenue where the costs of making games has increased.

As fidelity of games has increased drastically, the cost to produce assets has sky-rocketed: the expertise required, the number of employees needed, and time to produce work have all increased. Simultaneously, the release environmennt is the most competitive it has ever been. While the overall pool of players is higher, the number of released games has increased at a faster rate (especially when including indie games). The rotation of a games’ relevancy is quicker than ever so they need to amass support early to succeed (even though many games make most of their money through the “long tail” now). This is only heightened further with the desparation of physical retail emphasizing pre-owned sales, and Steam Sales creating an entire platform of players who wait for massive price-drops before buying.

The traditional industry also lacks the ability to reasonably halt this cost inflation. For so long the advertising hype machine has focused on future titles being graphically more impressive, bigger experiences than their predecessors. Sequels that don’t at least equal their predecessor on content are often decryed for being worse (even if the developers have data to prove that the content/modes dropped weren’t used by the majority of players). The industry has written itself into a hole where they have to keep improving, and their solution is to take greater risks with the potential for greater rewards.

At the same time, the working conditions of those within the industry is finally beginning to improve (not least because developers have more agency to start their own independent studios and obtain better deals through funding). This is still early, and is absolutely positive for workers, but it will cause the cost of developing games to increase again… especially if developers finally get paid fairly for their expertise (similarly to such jobs in adjacent tech industries) and Crunch/Overtime becomes less prevalant as it’s seen as a deplorable or poor management.

Microtransactions are one way publishers are not only off-setting the cost of servicing games, but reducing the risk of future titles. If the numbers of players for each release isn’t increasing consistently, publishers are learning to (on average) get more money per player than before. Most importantly, they’re trying to do this without blataantly increasing the up-front cost of games.

With the number of indiependent studios popping up, and the size of relatively new publishers increasing (like Devolver Digital, Deep Silver, Iron Galaxy etc…), I think the future big players in the industry are having to learn fairly early how to structure themselves to not end up in the same situation. Right now though, the industry is going through a painful transition and trying to avoid another crash by off-setting that cost on the player-base. I’m sure many see these tactics as innocuous and only affecting the wealthier players. However, I hope soon they realise how some of these tactics also prey on children, gambling-addictive people, and their most loyal fanbases who feel an urge to experience everything. I hope those in the traditional industries don’t see this as a long-term fix (because I don’t think it will last that long).

*Although there’s been some great comments already on the Gambling and whether it’s okay to heavily criticise them while partaking.


That’s because it is a HUGE adjacent, sure, but separate discussion.

I can add this thought that I had for some time now: why we have fixed price points? If you are a mobile game, then couple of bucks is all you can hope for. “Small” indie – $5–15, “big” indie – $20–30, AAA – $60. Games like “Monument Valley” and “The Witness” are outliers. Only wiggle room is “popularity contest” (selling more copies) or those not so honest practises.

I’m not going into details here, because maybe we should ask mods to move this discussion into separate thread.


I strongly disagree that it is a separate topic. It links directly to Patrick’s comment about believing loot boxes are here to stay. It is the backbone to how prevelant they are right now, and ultimately the cause to how willing publisher’s are to push their inclusion against vocal players’ issues. When a discussion is started about whether Loot Boxes (and similar) are an okay business practice, you must also be willing to tackle head-on the alternatives to funding which losing them would require. I feel a lot of the discussion by players would be better if they were to understand, even to a small degree, the pressures the industry is having sticking to the US$60 model at AAA. I don’t begrudge players for not knowing or caring, but one of my favourite parts about Waypoint’s thoughtfulness is the willingness to bring greater industry perspective behind these issues.


I mean that in a forum sense of not fitting everything into one thread :­)


Oh sorry. I thought you meant it was too big a topic (and not relevant enough) to mention on the podcast. I don’t mind about where it appears one the forums.


One major issue with having that discussion is that everything is speculation and that includes how necessary the revenue from “micro-transactions” are. We have no hard evidence of how much money these games take to make and maintain compared to what revenue they get from the variety of sources attached to that game. This was brought up in the Bombcast today with their discussion of lootboxes. Of course, as they also brought up, these discussion hits right into the heart of a capitalist economy and invariably goes into much greater discussions of society as a whole. Not to say its not worth having, but it requires a focused discussion in the least.


We have something like this, but it is very rare.

The “magic number” I heard is $10 000 per employee per month. So we can at least guesstimate.


It’s true, the industries tight-lip mentality on statistics does lead to most info being built on mostly speculation. I’m perhaps being overzealous. This is especially true since most statistics come from company earnings-calls or conglomerates like the ESA or UKIE (or similar for different countries) releasing info more towards the aim of satisfying share-holders or lobbying politicians.

While I was researching, I went back to the most notable gaming news story from last year for me. This usually banal (or depressing) Weekly round-up of games industry news that ended up to coincide with the earning’s calls of Activision, EA, Ubisoft and Take Two last year (November 2016). It makes pretty clear how the focus has shifted to the “long tail” of games over the launches that year. Continued revenue from service model games is what is keeping AAA publishers profitable. It was the news story that made me pay more attention to the language used in games’ success announcements: when I realised the terminology had changed from Week 1 sales, to active player engagement.

Anyway, serendipitously, the news story I was then recommended was from a company boasting about the success of the service model. The company Digital River, which seems to be a digital transactions company (so very biased like most games industry news/data), makes the bold claim that:

In 2016, a quarter of all digital revenue from PC games with an upfront cost came from additional content

It was posted today, so I guess we’ll see if it has any substance to it by whether it gains traction.


Marginally news-worthy update to the FM7 situation: the exploits got so bad with the FE cars that they have now (patch arrived last night) patched all of the rewards to be more similar (credit rewards, not XP boosters) and all work on percentage boosts rather than a flat bonus. Which does rather make you wonder what they thought was going to happen when they added in effectively cheat code bonuses (as they operated thanks to being able to set 30 second timed races).

Will be interesting to see if the reaction is that major (as this is effectively a nerf for VIP players, but they may have already spent an hour gaining a hundred levels and infinite credits already so no longer really care about these exploits being patched out).


All the insider news we read about how developers are treated badly, especially the ones at the bottom, makes me sympathetic to the need for the AAA industry to have a better, more sustainable revenue-making model. Predatory mechanics like blind boxes shouldn’t be the answer though, especially when all that money the tax-evading big publishers are making don’t seem to benefit the underpaid, overworked laborers.

I’ve bought a couple of loot boxes from Overwatch, but even then it never felt good. I’m all for government regulation regarding this because it’s pretty much gambling.


Jeff from Giant bomb made a good point is that this year has a lot of great game from big studios to small indies that don’t do loot boxes or has really good dlc (and few are free). So even if all these AAA games are forcing players to pay more, we got a lot more good games that are doing it right.


Which one? :­)

Not even doing anything like that is not a point of discussion here. Or, at least, I think it’s not. There needs to be a way for players to support games they like and keep playing for months, if not years, and for developers to keep making money. It’s just that this way is wrong. And it makes it harder for games, that implement something like that, but in a more appropriate way, to do so. As Patrick points out, they are “Poisoning the Concept of Loot Boxes”.