We thought we were done writing articles about loot boxes in video games, but we’re apparently not. It’s 2020, and the public and the video game industry is largely in agreement that loot boxes are not a good thing. Those few video game companies who haven’t come around to the idea that loot boxes aren’t a good thing are slowly being convinced by national governments taking legal action. Games with loot boxes can’t be sold in Belgium. It’s likely that Australia will introduce restrictions in the very near future.
It isn’t difficult to work out why there’s so much opposition to loot boxes from gamers. Full-price brand-new video games aren’t cheap to buy. The idea of having to pay more money to speed up progress through a game – or in some cases just to make games playable or passable – has never sat well with a lot of people. It would be bad enough if players were being asked to pay more for a clear or specific reward, but they’re not. With loot boxes, more often than not, players pay for a chance to find out whether the loot box in question contains something valuable or not. Sometimes, the reward is worth less than the price paid.
There’s a word for paying money for the chance to receive an unknown reward, and that word is gambling. There’s little difference between spending money on loot boxes in video games and spending money on online slots websites when it comes to practicality, but there’s a big difference when it comes to intent. Online slots websites like Dove Casino are transparent about the fact that the entertainment they offer comes in the form of gambling. Video games aren’t. Perhaps more importantly, online slots are restricted to access by adults only, and only in countries where gambling is legal. Once again, loot boxes are not. The concern is – and always has been – that loot boxes teach underage players how to gamble.
The stink that’s been surrounding loot boxes for the past two years has been enough to put most companies off the idea of using them, but Capcom apparently hasn’t got that message. Two years ago, they were subjected to strong criticism for introducing loot boxes to ‘Street Fighter V’ during a time when their flagship fighting franchise was already getting bad press. Having seemingly learned nothing from that, the company has now decided that the hotly-anticipated remake of ‘Resident Evil 3,’ released this week, will also contain loot boxes – and players aren’t happy.
As the game isn’t available to play at the time of writing, we don’t know to what extent loot boxes will play a role in the game, or how vital their contents will be in terms of making progress. From leaked screenshots, we’ve been able to confirm that they exist in multiplayer versions of the game, and translation of the Chinese texts from those leaks have given us some insight as to what the loot boxes contain. It appears that players will be able to buy cosmetic items from the loot boxes, including character skins, monster skins, and new voice-over recordings. If that’s the limit of their involvement, then it might be the case that not using loot boxes won’t be an impediment to getting through the game, but the decision to incorporate them at all is an unwelcome one.
It’s likely that Capcom plans on making money from its online multiplayer version of ‘Resident Evil 3.’ The market for multiplayer shooter and survival games is strong, and ‘Fortnite’ has shown that there’s no upper earnings limit so long as you can capture a share of that market and keep players coming back for more. As some people will no doubt point out, Fortnite also charges players additional money for access to come content. ‘Fortnite’ doesn’t use loot boxes, though. Players know exactly what they’re paying for before they put their money down, and they don’t have to spend any extra money at all to play and enjoy the game if they don’t wish to do so. Capcom didn’t have to present the character skins and other extras this way. They could have simply had an in-game store, and they would have been able to provide the exact same service without any of the controversies.
In addition to the loot boxes, Capcom also has DLC planned for the game involving new maps and new characters. As is usually the case, it’s expected that players will have to pay more money to access this DLC if they want to take advantage of the extra content. Factoring in the cost of buying the game, the cost of buying DLC to play the extra maps, and the potential cost of spending money on loot boxes in multiplayer modes, it starts to feel like ‘Resident Evil 3’ is less about breathing new life into a much-loved classic game, and more about making as much money as possible for Capcom by inviting players to continue spending money on the game long beyond the point of their original purpose.
There is no longer any justification for putting loot boxes in video games. Players have made it very clear that they don’t want them. Governments have voiced their disapproval of them, and legal steps have been taken in several territories to ensure that games with loot boxes never make it to the shelves. There’s nothing wrong with gambling in countries that permit it, but gambling is only fair when the terms of the gamble are clearly indicated, and the participant or player is entirely aware that they’re gambling. Loot boxes – even loot boxes that don’t contain anything that would turn a game from a regular title into a ‘pay to play’ feature – are gambling. It’s beyond time that the gaming industry took a stance and decided to leave gambling to online slots websites, and consign loot boxes to waste bin of bad ideas.
We were all excited about the release of ‘Resident Evil 3.’ We’re going to play it anyway, and we’ll still enjoy it so long as it’s as good as the previews and demos have made it look. This needless loot box controversy has, however, taken some of the shine off the product before it’s even had a chance to show us what it’s got.
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