#Rocktober might focus on bugfixes in Neverwinter, but in the MMO verse you certainly couldn’t dodge the topic of lockboxes this month. Big Youtubers and news sites came out against lockboxes, the ESRB reacted, and the topic even hit the political stage in England. Nothing is imminent, but it certainly seems like the pressure on studios that rely on pay-to-loot systems is rising, especially since science started to uncover its potential harm.
Because of all that noise, no wonder most devs decided to stay silent when approached to comment on the topic. A few however stepped forward and defended the system. Their reasoning? We have to pay our bills and it works, so why can’t you just shut up?!
Let me start by saying that I get that. It’s business, and as long as it works, can you tell companies to stop it? In the end the players have all the power to stop buying lockboxes, stop playing games that use them, and contribute to a better world. If studios see their dev costs constantly rising, partially due to player demands, and feel like loot boxes are the only way to create enough revenue, it even feels like a fair deal.
On the other hand, if a title doesn’t generate enough revenue with pay-to-play, you could also adjust your development costs. Otherwise you’re only trying to milk a saturated market, which makes the impending downfall only worse.
Also this whole reasoning would only work if we didn’t know how lockboxes work on the human mind. Have you ever heard drug dealers state on court that they wouldn’t have sold their product if the market didn’t demand it? It seems pretty weird, right? Yet, that’s exactly what studios are doing. They infuse their product with an addictive component to make it work and then blame the customers for buying it.
That raises two problems. First of all it shouldn’t be available to minors. And even dealing with adults you can’t talk yourself out of a moral responsibility. That doesn’t only apply to the studio as organization by the way, but to all individual devs working on the product. If you think you have to pay your retirement fund with lockbox money that’s fine, but please don’t come up with weird excuses why the system isn’t too bad. I personally can accept devs saying that they need the money and do what’s needed. That’s not an issue, but you’re trading some of your integrity in the process.
Can’t Have It Both Ways
If fingers get pointed your way, you might actually deserve it. Studios and devs can’t have it both ways. You can’t develop products around pay-to-loot systems and then evade your responsibility. You don’t have to do it, it’s not like the gaming industry as a whole is close to dying.
It’s also quite telling that no dev challenged the psychological effect of lockboxes so far. They know damn well why it works and how they generate revenue. That’s why they tip-toe around the topic and try to find weird excuses that only make them look more guilty. In all seriousness: Stop it! Sell lockboxes all you want, but don’t take us for fools.
What’s your take on the devs’ defense on lockboxes? Can you relate to their sentiment or do you find it dubious as well? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board.
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