This discussion was touched upon a few weeks ago in the Shadow of War thread and it sort of derailed the topic so maybe this can be it's own thing.
Curious to see what others think and where they draw the line. For those that don't know Shadow of War is the most recent game to include randomized loot boxes, while not the first single player game to include this, it is pretty egregious example of this growing trend.
The loot boxes in general work by containing randomized items inside, often times on a rarity table presented to the player ranging from rare-legendary drops. The player purchases a key with real currency and opens the chest in hopes that they get the item they want. It doesn't seem to far off of gambling to me (a pull at the slot machine), the main difference being there are no regulations around this. Loot table odds of winning are not presented, and though parental controls are available they often go unused and can be subverted.
I realize there are a lot of people (myself included) that feel no temptation by these purchases and find them largely ignorable. Overwatch is an example of a game that on surface level seems pretty great about this stuff, they offer only cosmetic items and the boxes are earned in game. Hell they even offer all new characters and maps for free. It's almost easy to defend the key purchases as a tip of sorts. I think it can be argued though that it's far more profitable to offer the gambling mechanics then sell characters and maps. I also believe that the free content offered has a much larger benefit to the developer in keeping people engaged in the gambling mechanic. By offering free content you keep the community alive and keep people in your ecosystem (and on the hamster wheel) this is far more profitable it seems then just selling said content. Which I think is proven true by the fact that character skins can't be out right purchased in overwatch without earning currency (which is also randomly given out by duplicates or in small chunks from crates) which even at an unreasonable high cost would atleast give people the option at subverting that mechanic.
Even the argument of earning the currency in the course of regular play starts to fall flat for me when viewed in that respect. It's an insidious way to get people to get a taste for the gambling, kind of like a drug dealer offering the first hit for free. Once involved in the ecosystem and people see how fun the winning pay out can be they are more likely to pay.
I have never been tempted by these transactions and generally avoid all these purchases. I did grow up with someone with gambling problems which ended in a profoundly negative way for my family. I am growing more and more bothered by this appearing in a hobby I love. And the fact that it takes advantage of people that could be prone to this destructive behavior or worse minors that don't fully understand. It's far to easy to subvert the systems for a minor even when parental controls are in place. Short of parents placing a 0$ limit on accounts there is nothing to stop a teen from buying overwatch (which is rated T) and spending an allowance (if some spending week limit is active) on gambling rather then content
I think we often use the term "whale" to describe a person with expendable income that we imagine is using these systems the most. I think there are probably less "whales" out there then there are people who are being taken advantage of by an unregulated system.
If developers are going to incorporate these systems should they not be subject to the same laws as casinos or lotteries? Should they be slapped with an AO rating just like ultra violent or pornographic games are? Why is this trend often given a pass? I'm curious to see what other people think. My perspective might be a bit skewed as someone who has been negatively effected by gambling in the past. Should the gaming press be more responsible for reporting and sheding a negative light on it? Are we as people who view games as more then just a pass time responsible to hold developers accountable and let them know we won't tolerate this?
Or maybe people are ok with it, Im super interested in how it could be defended since as I've said I'm a bit of a hypocrite as I have purchased these games and probably will again.
Sorry for how long this post became, hopefully it's more then just me rambling.