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Hooked on loot boxes

The industry's push for engagement at all costs is ready to backfire as it misunderstands the concern over a controversial mechanic

Yesterday, ESRB president Patricia Vance announced a new "in-game purchases" label to be placed on physical copies of games that allow users to spend money from within the game. Although the label will be placed on games featuring everything from subscription models to downloadable songs, it was essentially a move in response to recent uproar--and threats of legislation--over loot boxes.

"I'm sure you're all asking why we aren't doing something more specific to loot boxes," Vance told a conference call of games journalists. "And I'll tell you we've done a lot of research over the past several weeks and months, particularly among parents. What we learned is that a large majority of parents don't know what a loot box is, and even those who claim they do don't really understand what a loot box is. So it's very important for us to not harp on loot boxes per se, but to make sure we're capturing loot boxes but also other in-game transactions."

This seems a bit like history repeating. After all, it was originally the threat of legislation that caused the Entertainment Software Association (then the Interactive Digital Software Association) trade group to create the ESRB in the first place. And the board's minimal concession to a problem here is similarly in keeping with its history. From the beginning, its purpose has been to regulate the industry just enough to take the teeth out of any calls for the government to step in, and no further.

So it makes some sense that when faced with critics railing about the corrupting influence of games on children, Vance and the ESRB would move to address the fears of parents. But as they discovered, parents don't really care about loot boxes; they barely know they exist at all. So rather than do something that could possibly curtail the revenues ESA members are making on their loot box-driven games, the ESRB figured the next step was to placate some seemingly related concern parents actually have.

"This time around, the people pushing for a crackdown on loot boxes aren't just poorly informed outsiders. Many of the calls for the industry to check itself are coming from inside the house"

The problem here is that in the past when the ESRB has found itself in the political discussion, it has mostly been for video game violence. And in those cases, the root of the complaints were very much coming from parents. It was easy for a parent to see Doom or Mortal Kombat on the nightly news and conclude that those games shouldn't be sold to children. It was easy for them to see the gameplay, plot synopsis, storytelling tone, marketing and/or title of a Grand Theft Auto game and think it didn't belong in a hobby they believed was "just for kids."

But this time around, the people pushing for a crackdown on loot boxes aren't just poorly informed outsiders. Many of the calls for the industry to check itself are coming from inside the house, as it were. It was angry players who made Star Wars: Battlefront II loot boxes a national news story and prompted EA to rethink plans for its holiday blockbuster on the eve of release. It was a lifelong gamer in Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee who introduced legislation to curb "predatory mechanisms" in games. And it's a significant group of influencers, gaming journalists, and others within the industry who have been vocally calling for loot boxes to be reined in or abandoned entirely for years now, because we know exactly what they are, and we know where this is going.

Loot boxes are a side effect of a larger trend in gaming, the push for engagement. In the games-as-a-service era, companies only make money off players by keeping them around. As an infinitely repeatable activity with randomized results, loot boxes are simply an effective way to continuously monetize people who stick around. If one were to sell cosmetic items or characters directly, even the most engaged players would probably just buy what interests them and call it a day. But with loot boxes, publishers are pushing the upper boundary of what players can spend in their game so high as to be functionally meaningless.

As a result, publishers are aggressively pushing engagement metrics, both internally and externally. Speaking at the NASDAQ 37th Investor Program in December, Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen proudly discussed the value the company's sports games and their Ultimate Team modes bring to users.

"If you go to a movie today, it can cost you in the US $20 to get in the movie before you buy popcorn, which is fun. It's great, I love it," Jorgensen deadpanned. "But at the same time, a $60 video game that people are playing three, four, five thousand hours during the year on, that's a lot of value for your money. And even if you spend some money on top of that, you're typically spending it on increasing the fun and excitement of the game. So we're just trying to give the consumers what they really want, and more of it, versus trying to build another game or do something different."

Ultimate Team can be a life-consuming endeavor.

Ultimate Team can be a life-consuming endeavor.

5,000 hours is a lot of time, especially in the span of a year, which (leap years aside) only consists of 8,760 hours. 5,000 hours is enough time to work two full-time jobs for an entire year, with eight hours of overtime per job, per week. If you're playing a game for 5,000 hours a year and getting a full night's sleep, that leaves you less than two-and-a-half hours per day for eating, bathing, school, work, family time, or any other non-game-related activity one would expect of a well-rounded human being. No weekends, no days off.

When I asked EA if Jorgensen's comments meant the company has literally seen players of its games log 5,000 hours of playtime over the course of a year, I was told not to read too much into his statement. But even assuming that the chief financial officer of a publicly traded company would be so careless--or actively misleading--with the numbers he gives to investors, the point remains that Jorgensen spoke about this hypothetical 5,000-hour player as an example of tremendous success.

"The publishers of the world don't want to make games for players to consume so much as they want to make games that consume their players"

This is where the outrage over loot boxes is coming from. This time it's not rooted in ignorance and a fear of the unknown. It's rooted in the knowledge that the publishers of the world don't want to make games for players to consume so much as they want to make games that consume their players.

It's in the knowledge that EA has researched matchmaking techniques not for fair games, but to feed people the sequence of wins and losses most likely to keep them from putting the controller down and walking away. It's in the knowledge that Activision has patented a way to skew matchmaking in its games to benefit those who made in-game purchases and encourage more such spending.

It's in the knowledge that even when a government imposes the mildest of restrictions--a simple demand that you tell players what the distribution of various items is in the loot boxes they're buying--publishers like Activision Blizzard willfully circumvent the law in bad faith rather than let people make an informed purchasing decision.

The ESRB originally responded to concerns about loot boxes by comparing them to collectible card games. And to a certain extent, that's a fair comparison. The difference is that when I go to buy a pack of Magic: The Gathering cards, Wizards of the Coast doesn't necessarily know it's me buying them. Wizards of the Coast can't tie the purchase to my Xbox Live Gamertag or PlayStation Network account. It can't look back on years of my spending behavior on collectible card games. It can't make an educated guess as to which kind of cards I like to use, and how frequently I need to see those cards show up in packs to keep me buying more. It can't intentionally withhold those cards from me if it suspects I'm determined to go for them at any cost. When I buy a pack of Magic cards, I can be assured that the contents of that pack are the same for me as they would be for anyone else. That is absolutely not the case with loot boxes.

"When I buy a pack of Magic cards, I can be assured that the contents of that pack are the same for me as they would be for anyone else. That is absolutely not the case with loot boxes"

The industry's publishers are tracking every aspect of player behavior, no matter how obscure, and examining it for hidden patterns and links. They are relentlessly pushing engagement, with no thought given to the consequences that can have on their players. They have embraced virtual currency mechanics that obfuscate the value proposition of their offerings, and shown a contempt for transparency and disclosure with their customers. I do not for one second trust these companies to apply what they learn from the careful and constant monitoring of their player bases with any ethical grounding.

It doesn't matter if loot boxes are technically gambling. When your game employs the same principles of gambling to engage people in the hopes they funnel unlimited amounts of money your way, I'm not going to be won over when you tell me, "But it's all OK because there's no way they'll ever get a penny of their money back."

It doesn't matter if gaming addiction is a diagnosable disorder. We have more than enough stories of players dying during marathon sessions. Designing games specifically as bottomless pits for people like this to fall into is a dubious way to turn a profit.

I don't want to see laws passed governing the implementation of loot boxes in games, but if the companies and trade groups that run the industry can't be bothered to take these concerns seriously, I'm not sure I see this ending any other way. And if those laws are too restrictive, unforgiving, and detrimental to people trying to innovate in good faith, we shouldn't be too surprised. Between Activision Blizzard's flaunting of the mildest of legal requirements and the ESRB dragging its heels on doing anything substantive, there's no reason to think this industry is capable of tackling concerns about loot boxes on its own.

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Latest comments (22)

Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief3 months ago
I do agree with you on the inevitability of regulation.

More broadly, I would be careful about mixing up "engagement" and "monetisation". Many of the things that you talk about were monetisation strategies, not engagement ones. It is perfectly reasonable for companies to have strategies for both engagement and monetisation (neither are inherently evil). Both can be pushed too far.

But to have a strong constructive dialogue (which is sorely need over lootboxes), it is important to use accurate language. Minecraft targets "engagement" without lootboxes, for example.
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George Williams Owner 3 months ago
Blake Jorgensen really needs to keep his trap shut. He is a suit. He has no idea that what he and EA are trying to do, is create a world where the 'haves' and the 'have nots' do battle in their gaming 'services'.

Games are about escaping and having fun, and players should NEVER be punished because someone else spent more money to get a better weapon, or juicy power up. (I am not talking about F2P mobile games here).

The ESRB said that parents 'had no idea' what a loot box was, so their response is to slap a sticker on the packaging? Seriously?! It's gambling and has no place in gaming. Laws need to be passed to protect consumers from the likes of EA and their dirty tricks.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by George Williams on 28th February 2018 5:01pm

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Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief3 months ago
@George Williams: You have many different points. I'm not sure that conflating them all helps your argument. And I'm not sure that there is any one definition of what games are about.
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Show all comments (22)
I believe this is the best article I've seen in this site, bar none.

Kudos, Mr. Sinclair.
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Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio3 months ago
I dont have an issue with monetized DLC, what I have an issue is the whole notion of randomness being tied to monetized DLC. Its one thing if a Loot Box is just a drop, then since its free, random is fine, its actually fun. But when you tie random loot box to real money purchase, that's where I have a HUGE issue.

After all I would never walk into say a Target, plunk down 20 bucks, and grab some random bag they filled, so why would consumers do that digitally?
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Gary Lucero QA Analyst, Advanced 3 months ago
I absolutely agree. Well said!

Do we have a way to turn off all these metrics so the publishers or developers can't receive them? I don't think we do. I think we need a way to shut off the valve of information to these vipers so they have less info to use against us.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 months ago
New ownership, new bite. Not just copying statements, but contrasting them with reality. Great read.
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Eddie In Product Manager - Games, Mobile, Boss Fight Entertainment3 months ago
It can't look back on years of my spending behavior on collectible card games. It can't make an educated guess as to which kind of cards I like to use, and how frequently I need to see those cards show up in packs to keep me buying more. It can't intentionally withhold those cards from me if it suspects I'm determined to go for them at any cost.
You give publishers too much credit. I've been working with loot boxes and F2P monetization for over a decade and aside from social casino game operators, no one does this really. I've encountered a VERY SMALL handful that implements karma systems which try to normalize your results from becoming too lucky or unlucky but honestly, this is more trouble than it's worth. In fact, I'm scared shitless of someone live streaming thousands of loot box pulls and the community finding out that the system I designed isn't random and "fair." You can lose a massive portion of your spenders if you get caught tampering and there are plenty of high profile cases in Asia to keep the industry honest.

Staying with the theme of consumer trust, I'm all for more transparency in general. There is still plenty of money to be made without having to resort to disingenuous tactics. With added transparency, consumers should be able to make informed purchase decisions.

Sliding to a different point - I wonder why no one is leaning on the platforms or financial institutions to provide better tools to help curb potentially dangerous purchase behavior. Like if a user with no history of making purchases over $100 a month on digital purchases suddenly tries to spend over $1000 in a short period of time, I'd expect my credit card to verify the cardholder and make a call. Walmart and Chase gave me hell when trying to authorize a purchase of a gift card on their website (took me, not even kidding, 2 weeks to get it through), why didn't ANYONE make a call to that parent whose kid ruined Christmas by spending the entire bank account on FIFA points? It may seem I'm deflecting here but a) game publishers have limited access to personal information and can't make that call even if they wanted to and b) no one is talking about the platform and payment providers' role in all of this.
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Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch3 months ago
@Eddie In: This is my experience too. I think people hear about data collection and the ability to do things and assume they are done. I don't know of anyone who changes probabilities based an individual's 'profiled' behaviour, the most I've seen is pity timers that are applied across the board. The thing is that even if you were to try this it would be really hard to get the numbers you would need for statistical significance, I'm not saying it couldn't be done just that in my decade of f2p I've never seen it either.

I think legislation is likely at this point. I don't see why showing drop rates or some relevant equivalent is too big a deal. Even restricting loot boxes to a 'mature' 16+ audience wouldn't really a big deal. The idea that they should have big red warning labels seems absurd to me unless someone can show that loot boxes have the same impact as gambling. Also, the notion that they should be 21+ seems far too onerous as validating it would create a ridiculous amount of friction and stop lots of players from enjoying games like COD, Hearthstone and Overwatch.

I find the notion that you should cap spending a touch odd, we don't require this of any other industry. Go to a car dealership and they will happily sell you a car for tens of thousands of dollars even if you don't have the money to pay for it. I don't see why games are a special case.

I also don't get why people are annoyed that games can be played for thousands of hours. If you don't want that then don't play it. Perhaps part of the point there is most people won't and hence the distribution of in-game items will be part of gameplay, a sort of rock-paper-scissors by way of difficult acquisition.
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James Coote Independent Game Developer 3 months ago
If you buy a car or house or other similarly expensive thing, you'll need a credit check. I personally favour a system whereby games have a spending limit (say $1000/year) and after that, you need a credit check to get that limit raised.

Even better, this is done at the app store / platform level, so that small studios and indies can use it.

Then the free market can decide if games with loot boxes are a good thing or not.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 months ago
Intuition will tell you that if you roll a six-sided die six times, you get your desired result at least once; let's say six. Mathematics will tell you that there are 46.656 possible outcomes, so let's get 46656 customers and assign one outcome to each. 15625 outcomes do not feature a single six, those are the "unlucky" ones (33%). 18750 outcomes feature exactly one six (40%), meaning only 40% of customers will get what they expect. 12281 will be lucky, rolling more than one six (26%) [1%rounding error obviously].

The easiest fix is to apply a +1 modifier after each unsuccessful roll. This means there are only 120 outcomes that need six rolls to roll their first six. Result, everyone will initially feel extremely lucky. Feeling normal will only affect a minority. You then subtract 6 from the hidden modifier. Those who got lucky earlier will now get a guaranteed dry spell, before playing the same odds than before. On average, you cut off the 33% who are too unlucky and the 26% who get too lucky in one swoop. Over time, players will experience extremely average luck.

So far you have a nice system to manipulate a table top RPG. Now toss big data into the mix. By changing the negative modifier applied after each roll, you can dial the system individually to every player. I would go so far as to say players would still love this system, if they knew it was in place. It protects the players from getting too unlucky, which helps the developer with less players leaving in frustration.

Problem being, this system is not something to throw at kids undocumented and unsupervised. This is a system that aims at the Id of a person, it is not suitable to be consumed by those who are slave to their Id.
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Alex Rigby Creative Director, Playdemic Ltd3 months ago
@James Coote: Credit cards and Debit cards with overdrafts already have credit checks in place through the bank who issued them. You can't spend beyond these limits in the App Store.
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Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch3 months ago
@James Coote: Game developers don't want to do credit checks on their users because it's expensive, arduous and often not the great for the player. Failing a credit check could affect their credit rating, they are giving out a lot of personal info etc, and this is all true even if done at the platform level. Remember how Sony got hacked? The more you give out such data the bigger the risk.

Any given person's credit for everyday purchases is largely dependent on their bank account or access to credit. Games are no different from supermarkets, bars, restaurants or shops when it comes to discretionary spending. Spending on games isn't unique so I don't see why they would need a spending limit. We don't do this for alcohol or cigarettes which have demonstrable harm so why would we do it for games?

The free market can already decide if loot boxes are a good thing and largely has done. It's only legislation that is putting the business at risk without providing evidence of major or widespread harm.
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Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch3 months ago
@Klaus Preisinger: I'm not going to double check your maths but I'm assuming you're right. The big difference is that a dice is a known object with expectations as to the probabilities. A loot box often has no known probabilities and no expectation. As such any outcome would be known to be random and the player would little basis to assume they are notably lucky, although I accept as items are often labelled with a rarity they might assume that to be the case.

Like I said, you could alter the probabilities but I don't know of anyone doing this on a per person basis. Big Data doesn't mean you have the answer to everything. If you want to know that a +1 modifier is more effective then you need to test it with an A|B test. I mean, that's ignoring that you want to individually profile people which would require even more than just an A and a B, you'd want to do that for cohorts. If we stick with an A|B test we're probably going to cut the audience in half, then If we want to know about a paid loot box we're taking single percent digits of that. Want to know about people who purchase multiple times, it's even smaller. Bear in mind that the potential uplift in revenue might not be large, that means you need an even bigger sample. We're talking such massive audience numbers that you're pretty much only looking at the most downloaded games and even then it would take some time, time in which you probably want to release a patch and pollute your A|B test. It's a lot of work that requires a decent number of players to know the efficacy and again, I don't know of anyone doing this. Of course, that wouldn't stop someone doing it without the evidence but that would be a foolish endeavour.

I agree that we shouldn't throw kids at these games, that's why platforms allow you to turn off IAPs and have passwords around them. The majority of developers will give refunds if a child has spent money without permission and the platforms usually have pretty refund policies. I don't think it's accurate to say that this is just about the Id, it's far more complex than that and again, that driver isn't unique to loot boxes. We should look at the science and the data and so far it's showing that there is a major or widespread impact coming from loot boxes despite their popularity.
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James Coote Independent Game Developer 3 months ago
@Ian Griffiths: Then people can just select "No" when asked if they give permission for a credit check to be done.

@Alex Rigby: I can get a pay-day loan so that there is enough money in my bank account for a debit card IAP transaction to go through. But that loan can easily lead to a spiral of debt. Or I could pawn all my stuff. Or any number of other ways to get short term finance that long term I can't really afford.

--

The problem with loot boxes is they conflate two very different issues:

1). Destructive addiction to games
2). The value-for-money equation of games has fundamentally changed.

The 5000 hours of entertainment for $60 that you used to get, whereas now you need to keep feeding coins into the games-as-a-service slot. This is a game design issue.

Not the same as people spending beyond their means, which is a social issue.

The more we mix the two up, the closer we get to regulating game design in an effort to solve the addiction problem.
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Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch3 months ago
@James Coote: In which case their spending would be limited, why would we impose such a restriction in a free capitalist market? You could get a loan to buy shoes or a drone or anything else. Again, what is special about games?

There is no evidence of an addiction problem with loot boxes, no matter how much people want there to be.

The value-for-money has always been subjective but the way games charge for content is different. The purchases are optional and you can pretty much play these games for thousands of hours. Before Dota 2 the most I had played a game was about 150 hours of L4D, games under the GaaS model now present thousands of hours of engaging entertainment.

You're right though, we're at risk of regulating game design, something that is meant to be protected under free speech. But that's what people seem to want because they don't like the option of paying for optional content.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 months ago
@Ian
I know the loaded dice system from tabletop RPGs and can speak to its effectiveness whether the players know the chances or not. It does not matter if applied to d6 or d100. The positive aspect is the near equal distribution it creates within the small social groups of a tabletop RPG.

Sure, distribution is also even in a totally random online game, but often only across the entire playerbase, not the smaller groups which players form. An online game can be 100% fair in general and yet run into the problem of emerging small groups being angry since too many players of that group fall in the too unlucky category. Why take any chances of that happening? The lucky ones certainly do not show up in your forum, the 33% created by the system of absolute randomness are sure to show up in your forum, band together and create the narrative of droprates being too low.

Tinkered dice rolls, any day of the week. Good for player morale, but very tempting for developer to pull insidious stunts.
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Eddie In Product Manager - Games, Mobile, Boss Fight Entertainment3 months ago
@Klaus Preisinger - If you apply loaded dice across the board, those inflated outcomes will be the new normal. You're replacing unlucky outcomes with less lucky ones which will in turn be considered unlucky simply because they aren't as good as the most lucky outcomes. No matter how generous a developer tries to be behind the scenes, you can't make everyone happy. Therefore, I found it better to overtly tell users that you'd guarantee an outcome after n tries. You're still hedging against bad luck and the user knows you're doing it.


@Ian Griffiths - In-app purchase flow cannot be compared with offline purchases due to the super fast feedback loop in the former. I'm of the opinion that game loot boxes are fundamentally different from gambling as there is no potential for payout. However, the compulsive purchase flow for chasing a rare loot box drop is similar to charging an online poker account after a bad beat. This is what critics of loot boxes are honing in on and calling loot boxes gambling and dangerous.

I'm against nanny state politics but I'd much rather have my credit card company check my digital transactions on game platforms against a soft spending cap. When I say soft, I mean a financial institution calling the cardholder to see if you are the one making the purchase because kids using parents' credit cards and identity theft is a thing, and checking to see if you're aware and okay with making these purchases. Diablo III, was rated as 18+ in Korea because some bureaucrat saw addictive potential in the randomized loot drop system. This was absolutely politically motivated in my view and so I'll choose soft spending caps over putting game ratings in the hands of a politician.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 months ago
@Eddi
Done right you do not have inflated outcomes, you just trim the extremes. You can roll a die 20 times and a six does not show up. That is only a 2.6% chance. A game that sells millions will have tens of thousands of players experience that and it is normal. Try telling them that after they spent $2 per dice roll. Assuming everything is random, which often enough it is not with computers and different accounts with different seed values basically have differently shaped dice to deal with on top of the pitfalls of normal distribution.

At the same time, a player could roll two sixes in a row, which is also around 2.7% chance. But no player would ever draw the connection between those event being as likely. So if a system rips out those compressed successful rolls, the overall drop rate will not be inflated. It is one in six, just as ordered.

Why would the player then spend more money after a successful roll, knowing he has to work against a negative modifier? Layered systems and free boxes. Put more dice into the box. As one die grows cold, another one gets hot.

And you can sugar coat it all day as a system designed to be more engaging, at the end of the day be honest to yourself, more addictive is what it is if you do modify it the way I described, more abusive it is when you leave everything purely to chance. Science is not something you need to prove the danger of it, but a tool to make it less dangerous for players. Because at the end of all the maths, the system I wrote about has a money cap, a maximum amount of money you can spend an open system does not have. That is the attack vector which politicians will use to throw random systems under the bus. "16% of players could spend as much as X money and not get everything, do you want your children to be those 16%." A 16% chance applied to a person's child is a terrible weapon to use. The die is mightier than the sword.
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Ian Griffiths Game Director, Hutch3 months ago
@Klaus Preisinger: You switched a bit from personalised drops based on 'user profiles' to a more general 'pity timer' based system. A pity timer does get around the basic problem with random drops which is the small group that get a good item very early or very late in the experience.

It's interesting that you say negative modifier, it's essentially how you view it. One person's pity timer is another persons unfair modifier, you're completely right. And it does beg the question, are pity timers actually good for engagement? Are they good for monetization?

Is it more addictive? I can't see why it would be. Is it more abusive to keep random chance? It's certainly clearer and you don't have to understand the way that modifiers work.

The science is something you need to 'prove' the danger of the thing because it's not just how these systems work that matters, it' show they are interacted with. Danger means harm, you have to show harm to say that there's danger. That's just the reality. You can say it's more 'addictive' but that requires proof.

Your maths doesn't take into account how players respond. How do you know that after some number of not getting what they want players will not just quit and stop buying? With your system you're looking at a dice which has just 6 sides, complex gacha economies have thousands of items, unless your weight die have a setting for each item you still have the problem of duplicates. The thing is, there's nothing that says the player has to get everything, maybe you want this outcome to enforce asymmetry. Uncapped spend is not a reason to restrict loot boxes because each loot roll has some value, the notion that you're entitled to every item you want in a game is an arbitrary one unless specifically set as an aim by the design.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 months ago
@Ian
A pity timer (or rather distribution curve compressor) combined with a knockout list is an effective spending cap for any game. That stops the most aggressive arguments brought forward by politicians right in their track.

The science is not really required and we have proof for that in the past. When violent games got their ratings, nobody waited for studies on the effects of GTA on kids. Politicians and parents will go into fear mode and err on the side of caution. Years later we get books such as Grand Theft Childhood thinking, gee, I wonder what Jack Thompson is doing.

Demanding for scientific proof to exist before conceding to political action is highly dangerous once the train is rolling; which it is. Politicians were played too often by industries which already had scientific studies and kept them under lockdown. Politicians know scientific studies take time they do not have, especially in the U.S with representatives scrambling for bi-partisan family friendly topics in an election year.

People tend to forget what happened to Online Poker and that among consumer protection groups the forks where sharpened and the torches already lit to go after video games when a certain Edward Snowden blew up and redirected all the focus.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic keyboard basher, Avasopht Ltd3 months ago
Demanding for scientific proof to exist before conceding to political action is highly dangerous once the train is rolling; which it is. Politicians were played too often by industries which already had scientific studies and kept them under lockdown.
Exactly this.

For years the dangers of lead were ignored and scientists were paid to fool the public into thinking the neurotoxin was safe.

The free market didn't save us then, and it won't figure out harm in this instance either - that's just not how the free market works. The free market merely enables serving of market needs to emerge naturally. That is all it does.

The free market does not tell you what is good for people. It can't do that. There are obvious reasons for that. For instance, nobody likes paying extortionate prices for spare parts. Most people lack the appropriate decision making process to properly facilitate that type of purchasing decision, so they make purchases based on the simple evaluations they do know.

The rational economic actor is just a myth. And without that myth a lot of the maxims about how the free markets can serve all needs best blows over completely.

--

Study wise, it's well documented that using unpredictable rewards keeps behaviour going.

It would be grossly neglegent for the industry to ignore the possibility of loot boxes causing harm. I don't expect it to be on the level as gambling, but given what is already well documented it is worth exploring.

That being said we have to be careful as an industry that we don't continue in the race to the bottom to earn a penny. The tragedy of the commons is another reason why we sometimes need regulation to prevent us from shooting ourselves in the foot.
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