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The Anti-Targ

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A study which confirms what pretty much anyone who takes a moment to think about it already knows.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1806/S00049/videogame-loot-boxes-similar-to-gambling.htm

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Videogame loot boxes similar to gambling

Tuesday, 19 June 2018, 10:42 am
Press Release: Massey University

Videogame loot boxes similar to gambling

Adolescents playing video games that offer randomised rewards to increase competitive advantage could be being exposed to mechanisms that are psychologically similar to gambling, according to new research just published inNature Human Behaviour.

The paper, Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling, was co-authored by Dr Aaron Drummond, from Massey’s School of Psychology and Dr James Sauer, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Tasmania. Their work focussed on video games that offer purchasable randomised rewards, called ‘loot boxes’, and raises the question of whether such games should be regulated.

Still, studies that "formalise" what common sense tells us makes formal regulation of gambling mechanics more likely.

Legally prohibiting people from selling games with sex and violence in them to minors is difficult or impossible in some countries (much to the chagrin of the "moral majority"). But it might just end up being possible to legally prohibit sales of games to minors with no sex or violence, but with lootboxes.

Better, I think, for video game companies to just ditch the lootboxes and find other ways of generating persistent revenue without raising the specter of regulation as a form of online gambling.

A much scarier specter for me is @Werthead's post from the previous thread:

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Dragon Age 4 was in early development, cancelled, re-tooled and has had some early prototyping done for a new (rumoured to be multiplayer-focused) version but that's it.

By the Maker this better not be true. Option to play the full story campaign in co-op? Yes, totally on board with that. As long as a solo play through is also available. Actual multiplayer with no single-player...has EA not learned from the shit it got for Star Wars Battlefront having no story mode?

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On 6/18/2018 at 7:36 PM, The Anti-Targ said:

@Werthead

By the Maker this better not be true. Option to play the full story campaign in co-op? Yes, totally on board with that. As long as a solo play through is also available. Actual multiplayer with no single-player...has EA not learned from the shit it got for Star Wars Battlefront having no story mode?

I agree this doesn't sound good.  I think games should have a third person, single player campaign that everything else is built around.  Make sure that is done well and then go crazy putting in whatever else you want.

I finished Tomb Raider about an hour ago and I loved every minute of it.  This is my second favorite game since I bought the console last January.  I really, really liked it and can't think of many ways to improve it.  More tombs maybe.  I am already choosing which Rise of the Tomb Raider edition I want and will preorder Shadow next time I'm in Gamestop.  Long live Lara Croft!

 

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This would be a good time to disclose that I own stock in ea and have profited greatly from it (bought it in December after the battlefront scandal when it was 99 bucks and it's currently 143 ) 

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Loot boxes are basically the same thing as booster packs in collectible card games like Magic the Gathering.  We haven't exactly seen a wave of degeneracy over that games 25 year run.

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They are not quite the same thing. There is a difference in presentation and value given which makes them on a whole another level. It's the same difference as booster packs and gambling - while you could argue gambling is functionally the same as booster packs(depending on the game), the way gambling is presented and has an effect on the brain is different. 

Besides, MtG and other such games offer proper packs which people usually buy, while you cannot buy anything else but loot boxes.

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That's ridiculous. Booster packs serve the exact same functional purpose. Except that booster packs are explicitly pay to win. Loot boxes, depending on how they are set up, may not.

Yes, MtG offer "proper packs". Video games offer the "base game".

Loot boxes are gambling. That should not be in dispute. I honestly can't see what basis you are contending that booster packs aren't.

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I mean shit, Loot Boxes even utilize the same visual and audio "reward" cues as slot machines. It's patently obvious what they are. 

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I think games should have a third person, single player campaign that everything else is built around.  Make sure that is done well and then go crazy putting in whatever else you want.

 

The EA insider guy who was answering fan questions on why corporations like EA do apparently crazy shit was quite scathing about this kind of thing. People yell about how they want single-player campaigns, and then either don't buy the game or say, "Oh, this game only has a 20-hour story and no multiplayer, I'll wait until it's on sale."

There's also the Steam stats that show how few people complete video game storylines, and the general sales that show how massive sales are for a game with multiplayer versus those without. Grand Theft Auto V is just about to pass 100 million copies sold, slightly less than World of WarCraft, and it's down to the game's multiplayer mode (which has made them so much money that they put plans for a relatively quick GTA6 on hold so they can exploit 5 even more, and ditched the game's planned single-player DLC) which makes them obscene amounts of cash.

It's true that single-player games can sell enormous numbers of copies - The Witcher 3Skyrim and Fallout 4 all seem to be in the same sales bracket of 25-35 million copies sold of exclusively single-player, open world games, and Far Cry 5 has reportedly done well despite its lacklustre multiplayer mode - but it's far more common to see what's happened with games like Banner Saga 2TyrannyTorment: Tides of NumeneraDeus Ex: Mankind DividedDishonored 2Prey and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, where the reviews were awesome, word-of-mouth seemed to be good, and the sales just weren't there (although oddly they were for Doom and, even more surprisingly, Rage). Good to see that BattleTech (which was supposed to be multiplayer-only with a campaign mode only added due to the Kickstarter stretch goals) and Divinity: Original Sin II have apparently sold really, really well for single-player, low-budget games.

Not sure about the third-person thing though. Games should be in whatever viewpoint and format the designers wish, whether that's top-down, isometic, 2D, 3D, turn-based, real-time-with-pause etc.

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Original Sin II isn't really a single-player game, though.  It's a co-op game you can play alone.

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The thing with card booster packs in MtG is really the rate at which you rack up your spending. With lootboxes in video games you can spends a huge amount of money within a few hours. In the traditional mode of buying card booster packs (i.e. going to a store and buying them over the counter) your are absolutely limited to how much you can spend by the amount of stock currently in the store, and it's highly unlikely that a store is not going to sell it's entire stock to a single person in a single transaction.

Lootboxes are like slot machines, there is no limit or end to how many times you can pull the lever. Booster packs are not the same. It would be interesting to test card booster packs against the 5 criteria for gambling mentioned in the article.

But even allowing that card booster packs are gambling, regulatory measures in respect of gambling don't need to be one size fits all. But all forms of gambling should be considered under gambling regulations. One might not regulate lootboxes to the same extent as poker machines and casinos. They may be regulated more like lotteries. Card booster packs may warrant no regulation at all, because by their nature they are unlikely to lead to any harm.

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3 hours ago, Werthead said:

The EA insider guy who was answering fan questions on why corporations like EA do apparently crazy shit was quite scathing about this kind of thing. People yell about how they want single-player campaigns, and then either don't buy the game or say, "Oh, this game only has a 20-hour story and no multiplayer, I'll wait until it's on sale."

There's also the Steam stats that show how few people complete video game storylines, and the general sales that show how massive sales are for a game with multiplayer versus those without. Grand Theft Auto V is just about to pass 100 million copies sold, slightly less than World of WarCraft, and it's down to the game's multiplayer mode (which has made them so much money that they put plans for a relatively quick GTA6 on hold so they can exploit 5 even more, and ditched the game's planned single-player DLC) which makes them obscene amounts of cash.

It's true that single-player games can sell enormous numbers of copies - The Witcher 3Skyrim and Fallout 4 all seem to be in the same sales bracket of 25-35 million copies sold of exclusively single-player, open world games, and Far Cry 5 has reportedly done well despite its lacklustre multiplayer mode - but it's far more common to see what's happened with games like Banner Saga 2TyrannyTorment: Tides of NumeneraDeus Ex: Mankind DividedDishonored 2Prey and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, where the reviews were awesome, word-of-mouth seemed to be good, and the sales just weren't there (although oddly they were for Doom and, even more surprisingly, Rage). Good to see that BattleTech (which was supposed to be multiplayer-only with a campaign mode only added due to the Kickstarter stretch goals) and Divinity: Original Sin II have apparently sold really, really well for single-player, low-budget games.

Not sure about the third-person thing though. Games should be in whatever viewpoint and format the designers wish, whether that's top-down, isometic, 2D, 3D, turn-based, real-time-with-pause etc.

Jim Sterling had a really good response to the "but single player games don't sell enough" BS being spewed by the likes of EA. I won't try to paraphrase here. If anyone is interested its on his youtube channel.

It's almost like EA is suggesting multiplayer games never fail. But they do, all the time. Go ask Epic what happened to Paragon. Sure, the pivoted to fortnight was successful, but still there are plenty of failed multiplayer games out there. Also ask almost every company that tried to emulate WoW.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Jace, The Sugarcube said:

Also, not every game needs to make a bajillion dollars if the company has people who aren't dickbags in charge.

Yeah, you can't rightly expect every game to sell a hundred million copies, multi-player or single-player.  That's just not realistic.  Only a handful of games are capable of that kind of success.

Plenty of single-player games sell more than enough to be profitable, and that's ultimately all that matters.

I'm also not sure it's really fair to compare niche games like Banner Saga and Tyranny to big-budget AAA games either.  Of course a turn-based strategy game and an isometric RPG aren't going to sell as many copies as gigantic, open-world, 100+ hour games like Fallout and Witcher 3, regardless of how good they are.  Banner Saga 2 is an amazing game, but I'm not going to fool myself into thinking it's the type of game everyone will enjoy.  And it apparently did well enough to get a third game in development.

Edited by briantw

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6 hours ago, briantw said:

Yeah, you can't rightly expect every game to sell a hundred million copies, multi-player or single-player.  That's just not realistic.  Only a handful of games are capable of that kind of success.

Plenty of single-player games sell more than enough to be profitable, and that's ultimately all that matters.

I'm also not sure it's really fair to compare niche games like Banner Saga and Tyranny to big-budget AAA games either.  Of course a turn-based strategy game and an isometric RPG aren't going to sell as many copies as gigantic, open-world, 100+ hour games like Fallout and Witcher 3, regardless of how good they are.  Banner Saga 2 is an amazing game, but I'm not going to fool myself into thinking it's the type of game everyone will enjoy.  And it apparently did well enough to get a third game in development.

Banner Saga 2 actually didn't, as they had to go back to Kickstarter for the third one.

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15 minutes ago, GallowKnight said:

Banner Saga 2 actually didn't, as they had to go back to Kickstarter for the third one.

Weren't they planning to do that all along?

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On 6/19/2018 at 10:36 AM, The Anti-Targ said:

Better, I think, for video game companies to just ditch the lootboxes and find other ways of generating persistent revenue without raising the specter of regulation as a form of online gambling.

Even if it weren't gambling I'd be happy to see it regulated away, just out of self-interest. So few of these big games have had extra content worth buying recently. I miss expansions. 

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30 minutes ago, The Drunkard said:

Even if it weren't gambling I'd be happy to see it regulated away, just out of self-interest. So few of these big games have had extra content worth buying recently. I miss expansions. 

Witcher 3 did expansions and DLC right.  Free small DLC, paid large expansions.

And the expansions were totally worth the money too.  Just fantastic.

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The biggest problem with that attitude to multiplayer vs single player profitability isn't looking at the industry as a whole, its looking specifically at BioWare as a brand. They bought a company that was known and loved for their single player narrative based games, including things like romance in the narrative. Over time they steer them into including multiplayer, then loot boxes in their multiplayer, along with transitioning their single player games into open world. The company experiences a massive backlash to the conclusion to one of their long running stories right before you do this, the first attempt is received fairly well by fans and critics, then you hobble the company on the second attempt and it blows up in their face leading you to kill the entire IP instead of even letting them try and defend it or fix it. Finally it comes out that the way that game was hobble was by taking all of the talent and management that should have been there for that game and funneling it into a Destiny clone.

You've alienated the companies traditional supporters and you're making games they don't want (and thus won't come back for) while also probably not going to make a superior version of Destiny given that the companies strengths lay elsewhere anyway.

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1 hour ago, briantw said:

Weren't they planning to do that all along?

I don't think so. This article makes it seem like they only went for Kickstarter again when the second game didn't perform as well as they had hoped.

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14 hours ago, The Anti-Targ said:

The thing with card booster packs in MtG is really the rate at which you rack up your spending. With lootboxes in video games you can spends a huge amount of money within a few hours. In the traditional mode of buying card booster packs (i.e. going to a store and buying them over the counter) your are absolutely limited to how much you can spend by the amount of stock currently in the store, and it's highly unlikely that a store is not going to sell it's entire stock to a single person in a single transaction.

Lootboxes are like slot machines, there is no limit or end to how many times you can pull the lever. Booster packs are not the same. It would be interesting to test card booster packs against the 5 criteria for gambling mentioned in the article.

But even allowing that card booster packs are gambling, regulatory measures in respect of gambling don't need to be one size fits all. But all forms of gambling should be considered under gambling regulations. One might not regulate lootboxes to the same extent as poker machines and casinos. They may be regulated more like lotteries. Card booster packs may warrant no regulation at all, because by their nature they are unlikely to lead to any harm.

I'm sorry, I honestly don't see the difference. The limitation is physical and easily bypassed. If you wished to, you could just go over to the next store after you clear the stock of one store and so on. 

Loot boxes are booster packs. They have the exact same mechanics. The only difference is whether they are digital or not. Whatever harm a loot box can have is the same harm a booster pack can have. Reckless spending. You can buy fifty loot boxes at one go, you can also buy a whole box of booster packs at one go. Where is the difference?

But sure, complain about Overwatch being the culprit of popularising loot boxes. Never mind that crates have been around forever as far back as TF2 or that Hearthstone players of all people are amongst the complainers.

To be clear, I'm not defending loot boxes. It is the defense of booster packs that gets me. 

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