The topic of lockboxes and matchmaking rigging is making its way around the blog world of late, so lets pile on another post to the fire.
I’ll use Az’s post about it as a starting point, because I think it raises good points about the details while unfortunately missing the big picture. I fully agree that Pay-4-Power games stink, especially if the point of said game is also to compete against others. If you throw lockboxes on top, you have a giant dumpster fire of a game. 100% full agreement from me on all that.
But no one is holding a gun to my head forcing me to play such a game. If one came out tomorrow (lets call the game Goblin) that had P4P lockboxes with horribly, horribly odds for getting a super-powerful weapon, and had a matchmaking system that secretly heavily favored buyers and put them up against non-buyers to entice them to buy, I’d laugh at Goblin and anyone playing it before moving on. It would have zero point zero impact on me outside of it’s comedy value. And the same goes for you; if Goblin doesn’t sound like your kind of game, you don’t play it and nothing bad or evil happens to you.
“But but SynCaine, what about Goblin influencing others and suddenly everyone is making terrible game and I have nothing to play?”
Glad you asked blog reader. The only way the above problem happens is if Goblin is successful. And I don’t mean turn-a-profit or sell-a-million-copies successful, I mean WoW/LoL/PUBG success. The reason I ranted about WoW post-WotLK is because not only had the game become “Even a Gevlon can succeed” easy, but WoW was still a major influencer at that time, and now, all these years later, we see just how many bad MMOs we got because so many were copying a greatly flawed version of WoW. If you want to know why the MMO genre is in such terrible shape, look no further than WotLK and the direct it took most of the genre. It’s only now that we are seeing major efforts to do something else, like Crowfall, CU, or SC. (Not saying ‘something else’ will be good, but it will be better than welfare status WoW-clone at least).
Now, can you name me a single Goblin-style game that is even remotely close to such levels of success outside of Asia? WoW isn’t primarily focused on PvP competition, so that’s out. LoL only sells fluff, and has a working ladder system that keeps Gevlons in silver for 1000+ games while placing those with some ability to win at the correct levels, plus Riot is open about the different types of matchmaking manipulation they do (toxic account flagging, smurf acceleration, etc). PUBG also only sells fluff, is more comedy than serious competition (when a player at Shroud’s level isn’t aware that the do-nothing ladder has been reset, that should tell you all you need to know about it’s importance to the vast majority of players), and lets players of any ‘rank’ get into the same game if they queue at the same time.
Will player aversion be worn down over time to such design? Perhaps. Certainly today people are more accepting of lockboxes and microtransations then they were ten years ago, but again, that hasn’t resulted in a full-on Goblin game yet, and I don’t think it ever will.
Remember when F2P was the new hotness, and some people though all games going forward must be F2P because how else can you compete? Now look today, where a lot of players avoid F2P games simply because they are F2P, and the most successful game of the year (PUBG) isn’t F2P, while other massively successful games like ARK release and INCREASE their box price. People learned, albeit too slowly IMO, that F2P brings a lot of baggage with it, and isn’t a great option for a lot of games. Can it work? Sure, CoC/CR are perfect examples of high-quality, solid F2P games, just like countless other games are perfect examples of why F2P can be terrible.
The same applies to lockboxes. They fits some games (random skin gift boxes in LoL), are neutral in others (basically any fluff-only boxes, or some Pay-2-Skip setups), and are a total disaster in some cases (SW:TOR). Ditto for matchmaking rigging. When World of Tanks came out, anyone paying attention knew it wasn’t a pure-skill game (gold ammo), so only a fool would also consider its matchmaking as being pure. But a lot of people didn’t care about all that and just wanted to blow some stuff up, and so WoT saw some success. Did it become the standard, where all future games had gold ammo and wonky matchmaking? Nope. Because LoL exists, is significantly bigger, and shows that a far larger audience will play a F2P game that sells only fluff and has a real, actually working ladder that reflects player skill and only player skill.
So put down your torches until the WoW/LoL/PUBG version of a rigged and lockbox-stuffed game comes out. Until then, the only people affected by such games are the dummies playing them, and as of now, that pool isn’t large enough to matter.
PS: The “but what about the kids?” aspect of all this is maybe the biggest joke of all. If you suck so much as a parent to not only allow your kid to play garbage, but then also give them access to a CC to spend money on said garbage, that’s on you and only you.