Electronic Arts, if you ask many gamers, is one of the most hated companies in America. Being the free market capitalist that I am, the reasons for that have always befuddled me. Yet, here we are again, discussing one of the hottest controversial topics of the year; loot boxes.
Nevertheless, loot boxes are just a distraction that we allow ourselves to be baited with. It started with DLC, and then it moved on to Season Passes and finally micro transactions. When each one was introduced, we complained with the same ole basic message. Why should we have to pay more? The question shines light onto the willful ignorance of the consumer. We complain about loot boxes and the like because we resist facing up to the reality. We, the gamer, are the REAL problem
Lets get caught up on the current controversy with a brief history lesson. The loot crate issue started sooner than we’d like to remember. Back in August, Monolith announced that Middle Earth: Shadow of War would include loot boxes. These items could be purchased with real money or earned thru gameplay experience. This is the moment when the match was lit.
In September, NBA 2K18 and Destiny 2 arrive on the scene with the same features. NBA 2K18, in particular, is filled with these loot boxes. Destiny 2 received a form of this that was purely cosmetic and could be purchased for real money. The idea was getting negative buzz. The idea of “pay to win” did not sit well with most gamers. And, many viewed the practice as a form of gambling that had no place in the gaming industry. At this point, the fire had been stoked.
In October, the open beta for Star Wars: Battlefront II became the last straw. It was demonstrating, once again, that players could gain a unique advantage if they are willing to cough up the money. From the beta to the release of the game in November, EA continued to reveal new methods of loot box only to walk it back again, and again. It was rumored that the President of the Walt Disney Company called EA and forced them to remove all micro transactions causing a negative impact on the game. With a new movie coming out in December, they just couldn’t afford the bad buzz (the movie had its own problems, as it turns out, but that’s another article).
Electronic Arts has not had the year they were hoping for. Go back in time to January, and gamers were looking forward to an amazing year for the company. In March, they were getting a new Mass Effect game followed by Star Wars: Battlefront II. It was going to be a big year and company execs could practically smell the money about to role in. It’s now December, and I’m sure investors are pulling lint from their pockets.
While it is important that we discussed the mistakes that EA and other companies like it have made, it’s equally vital to put those oversights into the proper context. Why have these companies over the years come up with these “money making schemes” in the form of DLC to Loot Boxes and everything in between? Is it merely greed that drives these companies? Is it the desire to milk the consumer dry? I’ve never thought it was that simple. I believe a major contributor is YOU, the gamer. In short, YOU are the problem. You continue to want the best experiences that gaming has to offer. Whether its HD graphics, 4K with HDR, virtual reality or the latest 3D, gamers want all of this and they demand that it stay at the reasonable price of $59.99.
This price point has been around for well over a decade. It’s the only price I can think of in the free market that stays the same and never fluctuates. The Gaming Developers and Publishers know that they cannot charge more than the normal price, so they have sought ways to innovate and gain extra income over the years. I’ve always said that the person who buys Call of Duty every year does nothing to guarantee future titles. Instead, it’s the gamer that is willing to shovel out the extra money for the season passes and the micro transactions that guarantee that the series continues.
We pay $59.99 for a game regardless of whether it’s a 15-hour Uncharted, or a 200-hour Skyrim. Those things should matter to us but they don’t. I remember my parents buying me NES games (yes, I’m that old) that were priced at $80. I wonder what would happen if Developers charged the consumer what they believed their game was worth. How would that affect the market, both positive and negative?
Look, I know how expensive this hobby is. I’m a luckier gamer than most. However, I remember the days when I bought one to two games a year. I get it. That doesn’t change the fact that this discussion on what developers can ethically charge has been one-sided for far too long. The consumer is part of any industry and because of that we bare part of the responsibility. If we continue to want the biggest, prettiest, and loudest gaming experience that technology can offer, that comes with the willingness for each side to play fair. It is not only a willingness, but also a responsibility. We need to be ok with loot boxes, micro transaction and other methods. Alternatively, consumers need to face the reality of higher prices out of the gate. Loot boxes may be hated, and legitimately so, but we bare responsibility for them and other methods because we have drawn a line in the sand on the fixed price of a game. If that continues, companies will continue to experiment on how to get more money for the product they sell.
The honest conversation has yet to be had. Hopefully, articles and opinions like this will find a louder voice. I look forward to the discussion. Until then, keep your head up, and GAME ON!
Jonathan is a cohost of Weekly Games Chat with his friends Chris and Shaun. Weekly Games Chat posts every Wednesday on most podcasting services. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter @weeklygameschat.