The loot box craze took over the AAA gaming industry in 2017. Every shady publisher couldn’t keep their greedy fingers out of our pockets. Loot boxes were shoved into games that had no business having them. Activision-Blizzard put them in Call of Duty WWII where the boxes were dropped in front of other players to create a community experience. But in actuality, it was intended to tease other players and make them jealous and spend money on more loot boxes. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War made its orcs into loot drops, completely undermining its Nemesis System. How could these publishers talk about giving immersive experiences when something like loot boxes will shatter that immersion? Simply put, the AAA industry was up to its usual money grubbing shenanigans.
It was only a matter of time before someone took it too far. Who else but EA would be the one to overreach? Star Wars Battlefront II is one of the most egregious instances of blatant, unchecked corporate greed the AAA industry has yet shown, and that’s quite an accomplishment. A new low for a publisher that was once named the worst company in back to back years. Battlefront II loot box system was straight up pay to win, locking in game advantages to random occurrences of chance. To say people were pissed would be an understatement. The backlash to Battlefront II’s loot boxes was an incredible sight to behold. EA did more backtracking than a Metroid game. Not only did EA piss off Star Wars fans, they also attracted attention of the feds. The loot box controversy managed to grab the attention of a few politicians. Now the feds are paying attention and may investigate whether or not loot boxes constitute gambling.
You know the saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’? Apparently in turns out to be bullshit in some circumstances. Right now, loot boxes are a PR nightmare. There has been such a backlash to loot boxes that not having them is now a marketable feature. One by one loot boxes are disappearing. No one wants to be associated with them. Paladins tried to introduce a loot-based progression system. In perhaps the most brilliant protest I’ve ever seen, Paladins fans flooded the official subreddit with horrendous fanart with messages asking Hi-Rez Studios to remove the loot boxes. Hi-Rez actually listened to fan outcry. Probably as a way to stop the cancer on paper fanart from flooding the subreddit. Warner Bros. and Monolith removed the loot boxes from Shadow of War and they agree with fan outcry, as if they didn’t know that it undermined the game in the first place.
Here in 2108, loot boxes are a hot button issue. Including loot boxes in games is awful PR and setting yourself up to be ripped apart by fans and critics alike. The AAA industry has been bitten by its own shortsightedness. The loot box craze was incredibly irresponsible. Publishers seemed to put all their eggs in the loot box bubble. They saw record profits, but like all bubbles, it was bound to burst. And boy did it burst spectacularly. Now publishers have to go back to the old ways of monetization, like superfluous season passes and pre-order bonuses. For the time being, loot boxes are dead. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be zombified in the future when the AAA industry over steps its bounds and suddenly loot boxes seem acceptable by comparison.