As popular and prevalent as they are in the gaming world, loot boxes still remain a mystery to many parents. Fortunately, this guide will have loot boxes and the loot box controversy explained.
What are Loot Boxes?
Loot boxes, or loot crates, are digital treasure chests offered in certain video games that players spend in-game or real-life currency to obtain. Typically, loot boxes are purchasable in-game for the convenience of players.
The contents of a loot box remains unknown until the player purchases it, since doing so grants them access to whatever is inside. While loot boxes vary greatly depending on the game they’re featured in, they generally comprise of prizes that either level up or customize a player’s avatar.
The prices of loot boxes vary according to the game they belong to. Activision Blizzard’s 2016 multiplayer first-person shooter, Overwatch, offers its cheapest loot box bundle at $2, which consists of 2 loot boxes. Comparatively, Bungie’s 2017 first-person shooter, Destiny 2, prices an individual loot box at 200 silver—a Destiny 2 in-game currency. Converted to real-life currency, 200 silver is equal to $2. Thus, a Destiny 2 loot box costs double that of an Overwatch loot box.
There are currently no age restrictions for the purchase of loot boxes. As long as a player has an account with a working credit or debit card, they are able to purchase loot boxes if they game they are playing offers them.
Loot Boxes’ Origins and Recent Controversy
Despite the many emerging headlines discussing the issues gamers and legislators have with them, loot boxes aren’t new to gaming. Randomized rewards have long been integral to digital gaming. But the controversy behind loot boxes is much newer than their presence in the gaming world suggests.
Gamers only began to take serious issue with loot boxes during the release of Star Wars Battlefront II, which essentially forced players to rely on purchasing loot crates in order to easily advance in the game. Otherwise, players would have to spend hours diligently working for character power-up cards that would optimize gameplay. This gave players with money, or at least the willingness to spend their money, an unfair advantage.
Prior to Star Wars Battlefront II, loot boxes appeared in Activision Blizzard’s 2016 multiplayer first-person shooter, Overwatch and in free-to-play mobile games that rely on microtransactions, such as loot boxes, for revenue.
What are Microtransactions?
Microtransactions are small in-game purchases, often less than $10, players can make in order to obtain digital content that will enhance their gaming experience. Loot boxes fall under the category of microtransactions due to their relative affordability.
Loot box appearances in Overwatch and in mobile games haven’t received much flack from gamers since the prizes they contained were mostly of cosmetic value. Meaning, the prizes in these loot crates only served to change an avatar’s appearance. Little to none of the items awarded in loot crates actually significantly improve one’s gameplay by giving characters power-ups.
In response to heavy criticism, Star Wars Battlefront II has changed its loot box system so that the random prizes they comprised of were purely cosmetic and had no affect on gameplay. Electronic Arts (EA) chief designer Patrick Söderlund profusely apologized for the loot box mishap. Much to the relief and gratitude of many gamers, Söderlund promised that EA will not make the same loot box mistakes made in Star Wars Battlefront II with its new games.
Aside from Overwatch, many games currently have loot boxes for sale. To name a few, there’s Apex Legends, FIFA 19, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Modern Combat 5: Blackout, and Halo 5: Guardians.