Just when you think the gaming world can’t get any sleazier or complicated in comes Electronic Arts and Epic games just to name two.
Before I start, I have to say again I do this for a reason — the love of vidoegames and making sure to call out those companies that don’t treat consumers fairly.
The UK and other countries are starting to look at banning Loot boxes in video games.
Loot boxes are virtual boxes that players can purchase with real money and have a chance to win certain items. These boxes work just like real-world slot machines with the player having a very slim chance at winning the prize they want. These boxes have come under fire because they are gambling in the simplest form and are accessed by children and young teens.
These children don’t recognize the addictive nature of these mechanics. Developers have made these “boxes” even more enticing with noises and other gimmicks that recreate the feel of winning a slot machine payout.
There are examples in the UK and around the globe where children spent hundred and thousands of their parents’ money on these boxes. Many countries are trying to stop these predatory practices that rely on children.
Now Electronic Arts and Epic Games is trying to call these loot boxes something new... “Surprise Mechanics.” It’s just another name for the same thing.
These companies have access to millions of children and don’t want to lose that revenue. At a recent hearing in the UK, EA tried to equate the boxes to Kinder eggs.
The only thing is with Kinder eggs, you have something real in your hands whether it be chocolate or a toy. You also have that “thing” for life. As for these games, it lasts maybe a year or two.
Another question from the UK Parliament was do they have a limit as to how much people can spend on a certain day. The company had no answer.
A game that has access to using real world money for a “chance” to win something virtual needs an age requirement at the very least. A maximum amount you can spend daily is another idea.
If game companies don’t want the governments involved, self- regulation would solve the problem. But, game companies are just seeing dollar signs.
We have had micro-transactions in games for years. The difference is you were paying a certain amount and knowing what it was you would get for that money. These loot boxes (or surprise mechanics) are a game of chance with really bad odds of the player getting a high-value item. This sounds like gambling to me.
Some gaming companies have gotten sleazier the last few years by exploiting gamers. Another example of WTF moments for gamers is Take Two’s NBA 2K19. This game, which people paid $60-plus for now has paid commercials in the game that must be watched before you can play that match. This means even if the loading is at 100%, you have to sit through the commercial in a game you paid full price for.
This was just added meaning the game developer very likely made money for including these commercials. Developers need to go back to making great games and not trying to nickle and dime the player and younger gamers.
Sascha Heist is a Penticton gamer. To contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org