Do you remember when lootboxes were the rising star of the industry? An apparently inexhaustible source of revenue? Yeah, us neither. Because those times are long gone. Lootcrate systems do still carry titles like Neverwinter, but it appears that new games could more profit from aggressive promoting not featuring such microtransactions. This, a farewell to lootboxes in the Netherlands, and much more is inside our latest MTX news roundup!
Netherlands Ban Certain Lootboxes, Give Publishers Eight Weeks to Adjust
Tthanks to Gankdalf on our Discord for sharing this today!
Let’s start with the biggest splash that actually broke hours ago! The Netherlands are the first country in the West that actually cracks down on lootcrates. The “Dutch Gaming Authority” ruled that selected loot systems are illegal (original Dutch source) and gave publishers eight weeks to adjust their games. The basis of the decision is a study that concludes that loot boxes could be addictive, and selected ones definitely contravene Dutch law.
[su_quote]The study revealed that four of the ten loot boxes that were studied contravene the law. The reason is that the content of these loot boxes is determined by chance and that the prizes to be won can be traded outside of the game: the prizes have a market value. Offering these types of games of chance to Dutch consumers without a licence is prohibited.[/su_quote]
Currently this only effects games that allow users to sell virtual goods on third party sites, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, FIFA 18, Dota 2, and Rocket League. This however is based on other publishers saying that items earned in the game have no real value and can’t be sold. It’s a standard phrase used in pretty much any Terms of Service, but laywers have questioned whether this would stand court in case somebody would actually challenge it. Don’t forget that Terms of Services have no legal bearing. Publishers can pretty much claim anything in there, until a court rules otherwise. So while games like Neverwinter aren’t currently affected by this, they could be in the future.
South Korea Fines Three Publishers
Publishers in the Netherlands aren’t the only ones in trouble though. The South Korean Fair Trade Commission has fined three game publishers over misleading odds for loot boxes in their games. In some countries in the East games have to reveal their lootbox odds, and if they fail to comply, are hit with fines. Nexon had to pay the biggest one at $900,000.
EA in the meantime is still trying to fix the game that started this whole mess. Star Wars Battlefront II effectively changes it’s monetization model and won’t be selling lockboxes any longer. The damage has already been done however, as SuperData concludes on the basis of the game’s monthly user numbers. More than that, the media intelligence company predicts “no loot boxes” to become the industry’s own “gluten free water”.
[su_quote]Loot boxes won’t disappear anytime soon given their success in games like Overwatch (over $600M of loot boxes sold through February 2018). In the short term, though, “No loot boxes” will be the game industry’s own “gluten free water” — and we’re likely to even see this slogan used to market titles where loot boxes would not make sense such as adventure games (e.g. Firewatch).[/su_quote]
We’ve indeed seen more and more devs and publishers actively stating that their games won’t feature such microtransactions. Additionally companies will probably have to be very careful with how they manage existing lockboxes. Any mess-up and you could join EA in revenue hell.
The Good Kind of Lootboxes
Hey, but there are also encouraging examples. Warframe, a title often referred to as “free 2 play done right”, actually removed a best-selling MTX system because the devs doomed it morally wrong. Pass up free money to enhance player experience and with that putting the game quality over revenue? That deserves its own reward!
Also, in related news, the MMO Book Club, a community in which players periodically try out games together, introduced free lockboxes with actual cash prizes that their members can earn by simply playing with each other. Did their recent stint in Neverwinter challenged them to do a better kind of lockboxes?
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