Sections

Let people know what they're buying - A New Year's resolution for gaming

For 2019, companies should commit to giving customers what they need to make an informed purchasing decision

It's January, and that means it's time for New Year's Resolutions! Because if there's one thing a season of overindulgence and revelry tends to elicit in people, it's an impulse to overcorrect and fix everything wrong with themselves all at once. So in the spirit of the season, I thought it would be appropriate to suggest some resolutions the games industry should adopt.

In the first draft of this article, I had 19 proposed resolutions. But that seemed a bit much, and I noticed several of the resolutions shared a common sentiment, so I've trimmed it down to one simple resolution that could make things better on a number of different fronts: Give customers what they need to make an informed purchasing decision.

That's it. Sounds pretty simple, right? It's the sort of thing you might hear and then say, "Sure. But aren't we doing that already?" To which I would reply, "Not as much as you might think."

FIFA Ultimate Team players should know if their odds of getting a specific card are more like "free upgrade on an overbooked flight" or "getting hit by lightning the same week as winning your second PowerBall jackpot"

Let's start with the most obvious and (hopefully) least controversial place where we don't reliably do that: Loot boxes. I'm not saying the loot box mechanic needs to go. You can still make an informed purchase decision when buying a random assortment of in-game goodies, but to do so, you need to know what the distribution rates of those goodies are in the first place.

I'm not just talking about having a "Less than 1%" chance" to draw a "Ones to Watch" card in FIFA 19. If a customer is deciding whether or not to buy Ultimate Team packs in the hopes of getting a Cristiano Ronaldo Ones-to-Watch card, they should know whether their odds of getting that specific card are more like "free upgrade on an overbooked flight" or "getting hit by lightning the same week as winning your second PowerBall jackpot."

Of course, this also means that the information we present people with must be accurate. And that brings us to collector's edition bundles. For years, publishers have been offering preorders for big (and not-so-big) games with an assortment of related swag and digital content, often charging hundreds of dollars for the final package. There's nothing wrong with that in theory; it's a smart way to get more than the base $60 out of your most enthusiastic fans. But don't advertise these things with CG mock-ups of what you think customers would actually want unless you are committed to following through on that level of quality no matter the cost.

I'm looking at you, Bethesda. You too, Capcom. And don't think your imminent demise gets you off the hook here, Prima.